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Book of the Month

August 2004

James Paterson

James Paterson Museum Archive

Sp Coll MS Paterson

21st August 2004 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the 'Glasgow Boy' artist James Paterson (1854-1932). He was a proficient amateur photographer and this tribute to him is drawn from his collection of photograph albums and glass negatives. These were preserved by his family and are now in the James Paterson Museum Archive, donated to Glasgow University Library in 2003.

Atelier Laurens, Paris, 1883 (16 Art Students with teacher Laurent in bowler hat): MS Paterson DB, item 10 (print)

Paterson was the son of manufacturer Andrew Paterson (1819-1907) - himself one of the earliest amateur photographers in Scotland - and Margaret Hunter (1817-1901). At the time James was born the family lived in Blantyre but soon moved to Glasgow. James studied at the Glasgow School of Art under Robert Greenlees and subsequently in Paris under Jacquesson de la Chevreuse and Jean-Paul Laurens. A couple of years after returning to Scotland he married, in 1884, Eliza Grier Ferguson, daughter of an engineer, William Ferguson, and Janet Cooper.

Eliza Paterson seated in wedding dress, modelling for portrait painting:
 MS Paterson DB, item 114 (print)

Portrait painting of Eliza Paterson in wedding dress:
MS Paterson BGN82 (negative)

This afforded an opportunity for James to use the camera both for a photographic study of his wife as preparation for a portrait and as a record of his finished painting. In due course Eliza gave birth to four sons and a daughter. However for many years she suffered from a weak heart and died unexpectedly in January 1910 while undergoing treatment at a health clinic in Sussex.

Kilniess after alterations, late 1880s: MS Paterson BC5 (negative)

View of Kilniess from back showing conservatories and studio with large window and rooflights. MS Paterson DA, item 95 (print)

In studio at Kilniess, Moniaive. James Paterson seated by painting, with Mr Kidd and W. Young at the organ: MS Paterson BB47 (negative)

As a wedding present Andrew gave the couple a cottage, called Kilniess, in Moniaive, Dumfriesshire. This they extensively modified and enlarged to designs by Glasgow architect John James Burnet (1857-1938) - later well-known as Sir J.J. Burnet. Additions included a studio with an organ, which became a focal point for the many relatives and friends visiting Dumfriesshire as well as local personalities. Featured with James in this photograph are Thomas Kidd (1846-1911), minister of the United Presbyterian Church in Moniaive, and poet W. Young.

James's painting at Moniaive turned increasingly from portraiture to landscape and there are many photographs and paintings of scenes in the area. To enable him to capture the changing seasons more immediately, a wooden shed was erected beside Craigdarroch Water for use as a studio in inclement weather.   

Outside studio on Craigdarroch Burn in winter snow: MS Paterson DB, item 20 (print)

 Ewanston 'bridge' and background buildings; James Paterson bending over stream in foreground: MS Paterson DB, item 39 (print)

Watercolour of Ewanstone Barrier: MS Paterson DCC, item 23 (print)

Tree study by gateway on road to Craigdarroch House: MS Paterson DB, item 31 (print)

A number of scenes captured on camera are reflected in paintings - none more explicitly than the above view of Ewanston Barrier on Craigdarroch Water (1886). The appearance of James himself in the photograph, and in a similar view where is seated on the barrier, but not in the finished painting is interesting. He often included a solitary figure to direct the eye in his landscape paintings, such as 'The Last Turning' (1885). Groups of animals also feature frequently.

Several photographic studies of trees contribute to the lifelike representation of these at various seasons. Photographs of his completed paintings were mounted in albums and annotated as a record of exhibitions and sales. 'Waning Year' (1891) and 'Spring's Delay' (1892) - interesting as depicting the same scene at different seasons, as shown below - were sold respectively to Frank Webster and Weimar Public Gallery. James notes in the album seven occasions when the former was exhibited, including galleries in Berlin and Prague, and three for the latter.

Waning Year: MS Paterson DF, item 50 (print)

Spring's Delay : MS Paterson DF, item 59 (print)

Painting subsequently painted out:
MS Paterson DCC, item 69 (print)

Craigdarroch Road, Spring (subsequently painted out):
MS Paterson DCC, item 70 (print)

A few photographs are particularly important as the paintings themselves have not survived. The above two are captioned 'painted out'.

Portrait drawing of Madame Wanda Landowska, Paris:
MS Paterson DJ, item 2 (print)

Although best-known as a landscape painter, portraiture constitutes a significant part of his output. A drawing of the harpsichordist and pianist Wanda Landowska (1879-1959) is dated 1908. Other portrait drawings include Elizabeth, Duchess of Mecklenburg (1905), Lady Margaret Sackville (1908), Principal Marcus Dods of New College, Edinburgh (1908), Rev. Professor William Paterson (1912), fellow artists John Duncan (1909) and Emily Murray Paterson, as well as members of his family and friends.

Three photographs of the Irish writer John Millington Synge (1871-1909) demonstrate three stages of the work from studio photograph, about 1906, to finished painting. Another, full-face, studio photograph by Paterson (not in the Archive) was later published as the frontispiece of the first volume of Synge's Collected works (London, 1962).


Portrait photograph of Synge: MS Paterson BC18 (negative)

First or second stage painting of Synge: MS Paterson BC26 (negative)

Portrait painting of Synge:
MS Paterson BC23 (negative)

Paterson family group outside Torwood: MS Paterson DH, item 5 (print)

Many photographs record family activities, especially of James's children as they grew up. A group photograph taken at Torwood, his father's house in Helensburgh, in 1893 shows, standing, James's brothers Robert and Alexander (architect), sister Peggie, brother William (art dealer) with his first wife Hilda, and James himself, and seated, Robert's wife Nettie and daughter Betty, Margaret and Andrew Paterson (James's parents), James's wife Eliza with their children, Margaret (on her mother's knee), Hamish, Quentin, Fergus, and the dog Toff.

Eliza Paterson seated with growing family: MS Paterson BC3 (negative)

A later photograph of Eliza and the children, taken about 1910 after the family had moved from Moniaive to Edinburgh, shows Herbert, Quentin, Fergus, Margaret and Hamish, with their mother on the left. Quentin became a naval armaments expert, rising to the rank of Captain before retiring to be a director of William Beardmore Ltd, Glasgow. Hamish followed in his father's footsteps as an artist. Margaret travelled the world as wife of diplomat Sir John Worlledge. The youngest, Herbert, followed a military career, rising to Major-General, and in retirement was responsible for rescuing, preserving and sorting many of his father's glass negatives and papers.

The original negatives are gelatin dry plates while most of the prints are on gelatin printing out paper (known as P.O.P.), which gives a sepia tone. For consistency in this book of the month feature, as some negatives have not survived, images from both sources have been made in black and white.

Some reminiscences of an uneventful life: a fragment by Andrew Paterson, manufacturer, Glasgow, 1819-1907, with a continuation of the story of his life and an appreciation of his personality by his youngest son, Alexander Nisbet Paterson (manuscript, MS Paterson RC1); Journals of James Paterson (photocopy of a manuscript in a private collection, MS Paterson XA); H.M. Paterson Letter to Anne Wallace, 19 December 1976, carbon copy: MS Paterson RE54.

Roger Billcliffe The Glasgow Boys: the Glasgow school of painting, 1875-1895 London:1985: Level 11 Main Lib Fine Arts C273 BIL; Sir J.L. Caw, 'James Paterson, P.R.S.W., R.S.A., R.W.S. (1854-1932)', Annual Volume, Old Water-colour Society's Club, vol. 10 1932-1933, pp 44-59: Level 11 Fine Arts Periodicals; David Martin The Glasgow school of painting London:1897; reprint, Edinburgh:1976, pp 53-55: MS Paterson S4.


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Peter Asplin August 2004