James Paine was probably baptised 9 October 1717 at Andover, Hampshire, the youngest of the five children of John Paine (d. 1727), carpenter, of Andover, and his wife, Jane Head (bap. 1684).
Whilst facts about Paine's early life are sparse, it is thought that he studied at the St Martin's Lane Academy, London, founded by William Hogarth in 1735 to allow artists to practise life drawing. Here he came into contact with many innovative architects, artists designers, including architect Isaac Ware.
It is thought that Ware introduced him to the third earl of Burlington and his circle of friends. Paine’s first professional job, aged only nineteen, was as the Clerk of Works supervising the building of Nostell Priory, Yorkshire (c.1737–1750), designed by Colonel James Moyser, a friend of Lord Burlington. Essentially a Palladian, Paine was to work on many other projects in the area including Heath House in the village of Heath in between Nostell Priory and Wakefield.
Paine lived in Pontefract whilst working at Nostell Priory, and whilst working on that project, he was also commissioned to design the Mansion House at Doncaster, Yorkshire between 1745 and 1748.
From the 1750s, he had his own practice, and designed many villas, usually consisting of a central building, often with a fine staircase, and two symmetrical wings. The most important house which he was involved with was Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire where he succeeded Matthew Brettingham from 1759 to 1760 and suggested the colonnaded hall, but he was himself displaced by Robert Adam, who altered his designs.
Paine held various posts, some sinecures, in the Office of Works culminating in appointment as one of the two Architects of the Works in 1780 but lost the post in a reorganisation in 1782. He was appointed High Sheriff of Surrey for 1783.
His practice declined in his later years as he refused to participate in the Neoclassical fashions established by the Adam brothers. He published much of his own work in his two volumes of Plans, elevations and sections of Noblemen and Gentlemen's Houses (1767 and 1783).
In 1789, Paine retired to France, where he died in the autumn.
Paine married twice. His first wife was Sarah Jennings, daughter and coheir of George Jennings of Pontefract. They married in March 1741 and had a son, the architect, sculptor, and topographical watercolourist James Paine (1745–1829).
After Sarah's death, Paine married Charlotte Beaumont (1722–1766), youngest daughter of Richard Beaumont of Whitley Beaumont, near Huddersfield. They were married by June 1748 and had two daughters, Charlotte (1751 - 31 October 1814) and Mary, known as 'Polly' (1753-1798). Charlotte married St John Charlton (April 1760 - 3 October 1802) on the 22 December 1781 who later became High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1790 and the couple lived at Apley Castle. Mary married artist Tilly Kettle, with a dowry of £5,000.
In 1773 Paine bought the lease to Sayes Court, a country estate near Chertsey in Surrey. He became a justice of the peace for Middlesex in December 1776 and for Surrey in June 1777, and served as high sheriff of Surrey in 1785.
Portraits by Joshua Reynolds
Paine was a friend of artist Joshua Reynolds and had designed a large gallery and painting room, with an elaborate chimney piece, for Reynold’s home in Leicester Fields, now Leicester Square, London. In 1764, Reynolds painted a joint portrait of James Paine father and son pictured above (now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). The following year Reynold painted a matching portrait of Charlotte and her two daughters, Charlotte and Mary "Polly", possibly in exchange for in exchange for some of Paine’s architectural work at his home. This portrait is now in Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool. The portraits were intended to be hung so that the father and son faced mother and daughters. Reynolds’s appointment book records an entry for their sittings:
‘17 July 1765 Mrs Pain [sic], Miss Pain and Miss Polly Pain.’ Then, on 25 July, ‘Mrs Paine etc.’ on 2 August ‘Miss Paine’ sat alone, and ‘Mrs Paine’ sat three days later. On 3 October the entry read: ‘Mrs Paine & Co’. There were further appointments on 27 September, 27 November and 2 December, for ‘Dog.’
The portrait Mrs James Paine, and Her Daughters Charlotte Paine, b.1751, Later Mrs St John Charlton and Mary 'Polly' Paine, 1753–1798, Later Mrs Tilly Kettle) was exhibited twice in Yorkshire in late nineteenth century, and copies were made. It was eventually acquired by the art dealer C.J Wertheimer but when it was show at Burlington House in 1908, it was catalogued as Portraits of the Misses Paine, their mother Charlotte having been painted out to increase its sale value. William Hesketh Lever paid £4520. 5s for in 1918. In 1935, the Lady Lever Art Gallery Trustees took the decision to remove the over painting and restored Mrs Paine to her rightful place.
In 2017, the Friends of Doncaster Mansion House led on the James Paine Festival, celebrating his life and work on the 300th anniversary of his birth.
List of architectural works
The following are major works attributed to Paine:
The Mansion House and New Betting Room, Doncaster, engraved by John Rogers after a drawing by Nathaniel Whittock, published by Isaac Taylor Hinton, London, 1829.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, new office wing and court (replaced by Sir Jeffry Wyatville), stable block, bridge in the park, bridge at Beeley, water mill and alterations to interiors of the house (1756–1767)