Artists of Cape Ann: A 150 Year Tradition
by Kristian Davies
George L. Noyes
1864 - 1954
Noyes first came to the Cape Ann region in 1900. He set up residence and began to teach in Annisquam where, as the story-legend goes, a young N.C. Wyeth was one of his first students. Noyes is regarded today as one of the finest Impressionists of the Boston School, notable for his ability to capture and render sunlight and its effects on the tone and color of landscapes and water. His artistic career was marked by many years of success but also troubles and loss.
Born to American parents in Ontario, the Noyes family later relocated to New England where George began art training with George Bartlett at the Massachusetts Normal School. Later after abandoning an apprenticeship for a career in glass design at the New England Glass Company, Noyes traveled to Paris in 1890 where he studied under Gustave Courtois and Joseph-Paul Blanc. In Blanc's atelier Noyes befriended Maurice Prendergast. It was during his European travels that he developed his skill for plein air painting. In 1892 Noyes traveled to Algeria and then to Italy where he met up with his brother Edward, an accomplished pianist studying in Dresden. In 1893 Noyes set up a studio in Boston and began to exhibit his pictures with his friend Prendergast and others.
Later in 1897 Noyes had the great fortune to join an aging Frederic Edwin Church on a trip to Mexico where they traveled and painted together. Noyes' role seems to have been that of an assistant, an apprentice and a student. This exposure certainly contributed to Noyes' sense of respect for the landscape and remaining truthful to its basic elements.
Upon returning to New England, Noyes' roots became firmly planted in Boston and the North Shore region. He began to exhibit at the Boston Art Club and the Boston Society of Watercolor. Thereafter, Noyes began to explore the countryside of Massachusetts, painting throughout Canton, Medfield, Cape Cod and North Hampton before his journeys finally brought him to Cape Ann. After settling in Annisquam, Noyes began to work with Eric Pape, who directed many young artists to his instruction, including N.C. Wyeth, who once wrote in a letter, "I am arranging to study a part of my time with George Noyes. His color knowledge is superb and I think he will give me much help at this juncture."
Later in 1903 Noyes took a post teaching at Stanford University but continued to spend his summers on Cape Ann. While living in the San Francisco area, the Great Earthquake of 1906 destroyed nearly all of Noyes' personal possessions. He would later return to Massachusetts where he divided his time between stays in Boston and in Annisquam. The first two decades of the twentieth century proved to be the zenith for Noyes. His mature style captured the essence of broken color brushwork, well represented in The Yellow Shed and the breathtaking Yawl in Gloucester Harbor. He was honored at the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915 and had several shows, enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success. He achieved great popularity in Boston among buyers, patrons and the art circles. But by the 1930's his status had waned considerably with the ever changing popularity of style with which the aging artist was out of touch.
Noyes later moved to Vermont where he continued to paint. But in 1939 a fire destroyed his studio and it is said that a great body of his life's work was lost in the flames.
(above: Yawl in Gloucester Harbor, ca. 1920s, oil on canvas 25 X 30 inches, Private Collection. Photo courtesy of Davies Fine Arts)
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