A Child’s Lament – I Wonder Who Lived in There?

Scottish artist, illustrator and sculptor Sir Joseph Noel Paton was born in Wooer’s Alley, Dunfermline, Fife, on 13 December 1821. He was also a poet who was interested in Scottish folklore and Celtic legends.

Paton attended Dunfermline School and then Dunfermline Art Academy, and briefly attended the Royal Academy, London in 1843, where he was tutored by George Jones.

  • While studying in London, he met John Everett Millais, who asked him to join the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. However, Paton declined the offer.

Despite this, Paton painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style and became a painter of historical, fairy, allegorical, Celtic legends, Scottish folklore and religious subjects. Together with Daniel Maclise, they became folklore expert artists working in the genre of fairy paintings and folklore.

Paton won a number of prizes for his work including two of his most famous works The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania and The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania, both of which are available at the National Gallery of Scotland. An earlier study of the Quarrel painting was completed in 1846 and featured as Paton’s diploma picture at the Royal Scottish Academy that year.

Paton was made an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847 and a Fellow in 1850. Hesperus (1857) is a highly romantic picture of Arthurian lovers. Hesperus was a knight called ‘Evening Star‘ by Tennyson but in the Morte d’Arthur, he is ‘The Green Knight of Sir Pertolope‘, one of the four brothers who guarded the passages of the Castle Perilous.

  • He was also well known as an antiquary, with a specialty in arms and armour.
  • In 1858, he married Margaret Gourlay Ferrier and the couple had eleven children (seven sons and four daughters).
  • In 1865, he was appointed Queen’s Limner for Scotland.
  • Paton also published two volumes of poetry and produced a number of sculptures.
  • Two years later he received a Knighthood and in 1878 he was conferred the degree LLD. by the University of Edinburgh.

Paton died in Edinburgh on 26 December 1901 and is buried in Dean Cemetery. 

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