The Artwork of Georges Noël
Born in December of 1924 in Béziers, one of the oldest cities in France, Georges Noël was a French painter. His work was greatly influenced by two French avant-garde art movements: Nouveau Réalisme, founded in 1960 by art critic Pierre Restany and painters Raymond Hains and Yves Klein which made extensive use of collage and assemblage, and French Art Informel, an approach to abstraction in the !940s and 1950s that emphasized improvisation and highly gestural techniques.
Raised in the Castellón city of Pau, Georges Noël initially was an engineering student before his 1939 to 1945 studies of sculpture and painting. After his graduation, he worked for nine years as a draftsman and designer with the aeronautical firm Turboméca, a manufacturer of gas turbine turboshaft engines. In 1956, Noël relocated to Paris where, deeply impressed by the paintings of artists such as Jean Dubuffet and Paul Klee, he devoted his energies to painting.
Noël’s painting was associated with the French and Italian Informel movement. He was an admirer of the work by Lucio Fontana, an Argentine-Italian painter best known for his tagli, slashed, mostly monochromatic canvases. Noël was also friends with Nouveau Réalisme artists Raymond Hains, Jacques de la Villéglé and François Dufréne. He achieved recognition and commercial success through his representation with noted art dealer Paul Facchetti. Noël’s first solo exhibition was at the Facchetti gallery in 1960; he regularly exhibited there from 1957 to 1968.
During his stay in Paris, Georges Noël began to use paper laid down on canvas or torn and collaged newspaper as partial foundations for his painting. For his impasto, material paintings, he developed a mixture of powdery pigments, sand and polyvinyl glue which he layered onto canvas. In a gestural-automatic manner, Noël scratched symbolic signs or script into the partly hardened layer of paint to form the images he termed ‘Palimpseste’. With this term, he referred to the early stage of writing done by many cultures which involved the erasing and re-engraving of writen elements on stone or clay tablets. Noël’s wide vocabulary of signs showed his interest in the magic, symbolism and mystery of prehistoric, Mycenaean-Archaic and indigenous cultures.
In 1963 at a medieval abbey in Rowen, Noël met Margit Rowell who was training to be a medievalist. She would become his wife, life-time companion, and a veteran art historian and curator with key positions at the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York. Feeling restless and seeking a change in venue and style, Noël moved with Rowell to New York City in 1968. After research and experimentation, he found the visual, geometric language he wanted to express in his work. Noël was represented by and exhibited with two major New York galleries from 1969 to his return to France: the internationally-based Pace Gallery and the renowned Arnold Herstand Gallery on Fifty-Seventh Street.
In 1982, Georges Noël and Rowell returned to France where he had a major exhibition at the Abbaye de Senanque in Provence, which was followed in 1985 by a retrospective at the Centre National des Arts Plastiques in Paris. Noël’s late stylistic development showed a unification of the gestural painting of his early work and the more structural compositions of his New York period. From 1985 forward, he exhibited regularly in Italy, Germany, and Japan. Noël’s work is currently represented for France by the Galerie Christophe Gaillard.
Through all the unusual diversity of styles during his fifty-year career, Georges Noël’s textured canvases and graphic interventions remained constant. His works on paper show the same spontaneous scripts and signs, either on wash, collaged or built-up surfaces. Considered one of the most important representatives of the French Informel movement, Georges Noël passed away in Paris in 2010 at the age of eighty-six.
Noël’s work is found in private collections and institutions throughout the world, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bibliothèque National and the F.N.A.C. in Paris, and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, among others.
Notes: Georges Noël’s paintings, drawings and publications can be found at his website located at: https://www.georgesnoel.org
An informative interview between writer and curator Tenzing Barshee and Margit Rowell on Georges Noël’s life and work process can be found at the Mousse Magazine website located at: https://www.moussemagazine.it/magazine/theres-texture-without-touching-georges-noel/
Second Insert Image: Georges Noël, “Ohne Titel”, 1987, Mixed Media on Canvas, 106.5 x 75 cm, Private Collection
Bottom Insert Image: Georges Noël, “Palimpseste, Sones de Pensée”, 1962, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 116.5 x 89 cm, Private Collection