Wednesday, July 11, 2012

John A. Noble, American painter and mariner

"Anywhere men work or build on the water is of interest to me...My life's work is to make a rounded picture of American maritime endeavor of modern times."
John A. Noble (1913-1983)
Dying in the English Kills, Man & Mast #2 (Brooklyn)
Lithograph, edition of 300
Signed and titled in pencil
23" x 26 3/4" framed
Born in Paris in 1913, John A. Noble was the son of the noted American painter, John “Wichita Bill” Noble. He spent his early years in the studios of his father and his father’s contemporaries, innovative artists and writers of the early 20th century. A graduate of the Friends Seminary in New York City, Noble continued his studies in France at the University of Grenoble. There he met his wife and lifetime companion, Susan Ames. When he returned to New York, he attended the National Academy of Design.

Beginning at the age of 15 and continuing for almost two decades, Noble worked aboard schooners and in marine salvage. It was during this time that the artistic bug caught hold and Noble began drawing and painting. In 1928, while on a schooner that was towing out down the Kill van Kull- the tidal strait that separates Staten Island from New Jersey- he saw the old Port Johnston coal docks, “the largest graveyard of wooden sailing vessels in the world”, for the first time. He would later comment that this sight changed his life forever. In 1941, Noble began to build his floating studio out of parts from the vessels he salvaged. Noble would use a rowboat to explore the harbor, taking detailed records of the boats, workmen, and industries that came and went.

Despite his artistic provenance and critical praise of his work, Noble always remained intimate with the people of the coal docks. “I’m with factory people, industrial people, the immigrants, the sons of immigrants. It gives life to it,” he stated. Late in his life, Noble recalled his first compelling views of New York Harbor. “I was crossing the 134th Street Bridge on the Harlem River on a spring day in 1928, and I was so shocked--it changed my life. I was frozen on that bridge, because both east and west of the bridge were sailing vessels. And I thought sailing vessels, you know, were gone... There it was, and I couldn’t eat, or anything; I was so excited.” By the time of his death in the Spring of 1983 - shortly after the passing of his beloved Susan - the sailing vessels he loved were all gone, and the maritime industry in the area had diminished significantly.

Arader Galleries is proud to present John A. Noble’s Dying in the English Kills, Man & Mast #2 (Brooklyn). This exquisite lithograph portrays a mariner atop the mast on a sailing vessel navigating the English Kills, a tributary along the Newport Creek separating Brooklyn and Queens.

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