Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Paton, Richard

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PATON, RICHARD (1716?–1791), marine painter, was born in London about 1716. He is said to have been of humble birth, and to have been found as a poor boy on Tower Hill by Admiral Sir Charles Knowles [q. v.], who took him to sea. For many years he held an appointment in the excise office, and at the time of his decease was one of the general accountants. How he acquired his art training is unknown. The earliest record of him as an artist is in 1762, when he exhibited with the Society of Artists two pictures, ‘The Action of Admiral Boscawen off Cape Lagos,’ engraved by William Woollett, and ‘The Taking of the Foudroyant, in the Mediterranean, by the Monmouth,’ which was etched by himself. These were followed from 1763 to 1770 by nineteen other works; but in 1771, after a very angry correspondence, he resigned his membership. About 1774 he painted four pictures representing the victory of the Russian fleet under Count Orloff over the Turkish fleet at Cheshme Bay in 1770, and soon afterwards five views of the royal dockyards, now at Hampton Court, in all of which the figures were painted by John Hamilton Mortimer, A.R.A. [q. v.] In 1776 he exhibited at the Royal Academy views of Rochester and of Deptford dockyard, and between that year and 1780 thirteen other pictures of naval engagements and marine subjects.

Three of his pictures are in Greenwich Hospital: ‘The Battle off Cape Barfleur between the French and Combined English and Dutch Fleets, 19 May 1692;’ ‘The Defeat of the Spanish Fleet near Cape St. Vincent by Admiral Rodney, 16 Jan. 1780;’ and ‘The Action off Sicily between the English and Spanish Fleets, 11 Aug. 1718.’ In the Guildhall, London, are four pictures by him of the defence and relief of Gibraltar, and another of the lord mayor proceeding by water to Westminster, in which the figures are by Francis Wheatley, R.A. His works possess some merit, and were formerly very popular, as they represented most of the great sea-fights of his time. Some of them were etched by himself, and others were engraved by Woollett, Fittler, Canot, Lerpiniere, and James Mason.

Paton died in Wardour Street, Soho, London, after a long and painful illness, on 7 March 1791, aged 74. Edwards states that he was a man of respectable character, but rather assuming in his manners.

[Edwards's Anecdotes of Painters, 1808, p. 165; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves and Armstrong, 1886-9, ii. 261; Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists of the English School, 1878; Exhibition Catalogues of the Incorporated Society of Artists, 1762-1770; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues. 1776-1780.]

R. E. G.