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PATON, James Wallace

Born: 1874
Died: 1948 06 13


Practised in Durban from about 1905, Paton became one of the leading architects and artists in Natal. Paton was born in London and came to Natal as a child in 1885. He was articled to W STREET-WILSON in Durban about 1890 and became a partner in the business c1905/06 (cf STREET-WILSON & PATON). He continued to run the practice under the same style following Street-Wilson's death (1928) until 1936 when CSM TAYLOR joined the practice (cf. PATON & TAYLOR). The firm continued under this style until 1945. A note in the RIBA biography file for J Wallace Paton, written by CSM Taylor, said the firm had been Street-Wilson & Paton from 1900 until 1928. Paton was also an artist. He had studied art under a Belgian artist, one Emmerich, and in 1905 he and CW METHVEN founded the Natal Society of Artists; according to Taylor, Paton was 'regarded as one of South Africa's leading painters ... perhaps his great admirer was Gwelo Goodman' (CSM Taylor. RIBA biog file). Berman (1983:320) notes that Paton's style had affinities with that of Goodman. Paton exhibited several works at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, in 1924, along with other South African artist-architects such as WM TIMLIN and HLG PILKINGTON. In 1943 he served as consultant on the new Durban railway station (see also GE LE SUEUR), a project later abandoned. Paton seems to have retired in 1945. After his death in 1948 the practice was continued by Taylor and became PATON, TAYLOR, WILLIES & BENNET.

Paton was closely concerned with the practice of architecture in Natal and like many of his contemporaries was concerned about the question of a South African style of architecture. He was quoted (AB&E Dec 1927:18) as having said in an interview with a Durban afternoon paper that such a style 'would be the result of gentle evolution' given the varying climatic conditions throughout the country.

Vice-President NIA 1926; President NPIA in 1927; mem of advisory committee for Art, appointed by the Municipality of Durban c1920 (?); FRIBA Durban 1906; ISAA 1927. (Berman 1983; Fransen 1982; FRIBA nom papers (1906), gone astray; Hillebrand 1975; Hillebrand 1986; ISAA mem list; Jeppe 1964; NAD MSCE 2084/1948; Street-Wilson's FRIBA nom papers; RIBA biog file, note by CSM Taylor; SAAR Nov 1948:324, obit)

Publ: 'A century of progress in Natal' (cf. Hillebrand 1986*)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.