Frank Paton was born on November 23, 1855 in Stepney, London. His parents were James Paton and Mary Ann Paton (née Ross) and he was the youngest of their seven children. Although Stepney, in the East End of London, was a stronghold for the Paton family, Frank grew up in and around Gravesend, Kent as his father was a maritime pilot.
Unlike his brothers, the majority of whom entered the Merchant Navy, Frank showed an early talent for drawing animals and was allowed to follow his artistic tendencies. His first known exhibition was at the tender age of sixteen, the piece being a portrait of a German peasant girl.
Although never a member of the Royal Academy, a total of 20 works by Paton were exhibited at their annual selling exhibition between the years 1872 and 1890. He was a successful artist during his lifetime and could even count Queen Victoria as an admirer of his work. His most famous compositions, ‘Fairest of Them All’ and ‘Puss in Boots’ (1880), have adorned many a wall in the form of plates and posters.
However, Frank Paton is perhaps most widely known for his series of etched Christmas cards published annually by Edward Ernest Leggatt from 1880 until Paton’s death in 1909. They were intended to be a cut above the average Christmas card and sold for half a guinea each. Their format became quite formulaic over the years. A central subject reflecting the title of the print was usually complemented by a series of often humorous sketches around its border. A number of the prints would be sent from the printers to be signed in pencil by Paton. Fittingly, Paton’s last ever Christmas card was called ‘The End of the Day’.