Puck removing the Ass's Head from Bottom, a study for The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania

PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848) Biography

Puck removing the Ass's Head from Bottom, a study for The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (Scotland, c.1847)

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Oil on canvas laid down on card


16.00cm diameter
6.30 inches in diameter)
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C. Wood, Fairies in Victorian Art, Antique Collectors' Club, 2000, page 35 (illustrated page 30)

Description / Expertise

Noel Paton's link with the Pre-Raphaelite movement came though a lifelong friendship with John Everett Millais. Paton, born in Dunfermline, Scotland, met the fourteen-year-old Millais when they were both students at the Royal Academy Schools.

In the 1840's, Paton's works were hard-edged and crowded like those of Maclise, but in the 1850's, under Pre-Raphaelite influence, he developed a new sharpness of observation. Ruskin commended such pictures as the Bludie Tryst (1855, Royal Academy 1858), which is now in Glasgow Art Gallery, for `perfect draughtsmanship'. Paton is remembered today for his fairy paintings, such as the The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847, National Gallery of Scotland) and its sister painting The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1849, National Gallery of Scotland). These subjects originate from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream a source to which Paton was naturally attracted due to its setting in a world inhabited by fairies.

Paton also produced a small number of modern life paintings produced under Pre-Raphaelite influence. The most famous is In Memoriam (l858, Alexander Whitelaw collection 1911, Sotheby's London November 1989; known through the engraving), commemorating British women killed in the Indian Mutiny. However, after 1870 Paton concentrated on religious pictures painted in a Nazarene style.

The artist enjoyed a successful official career. He was a prizewinner in the Westminster Hall Competitions for 1845 and 1847. He was elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847 and Member in 1850. Queen Victoria appointed him Her Majesty's Limner for Scotland and knighted him in 1866 and also commissioned his pictures for the prayer room at Osborne House, Isle of Wight. However his work is still under-rated. The most substantial published study of his art appeared as long ago as l895,(1) and the only major modern exhibition of his work took place in l967, organised by the Scottish Arts Council in Edinburgh.

1. Art Journal, 1895, pages 97-128