Monday, 10 August 2009

Alexandre-Jean Noël

b. 1752 Brie-Comte-Robert, France, d. 1843 Paris painter; draftsman French

On a scientific expedition to observe the transit of Venus in Baja California, Mexico, Alexandre-Jean Noël and the other Europeans found the native Indians' food "impossible, especially for a Frenchman." Only sixteen, Noël served as the expedition's draftsman, documenting natives, lizards, and the mission in San José del Cabo in watercolor views. Some time after his return, the secretary of the Académie Royale recommended purchasing Noël's Mexican drawings for the royal collection. The purchase was approved, and Noël's drawings of "all that is curious in costume, drawn on the spot and with truth by an artist who has some talent" are now in the Musée du Louvre. Having been an Académie pupil before his journey, Noël returned to Paris and settled down into a more conventional career. He painted and drew landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes and exhibited at the Salon from 1800 to 1822. His carefully drawn and precisely accurate paintings record the architectural monuments of Paris and Rouen, while small figures busy with their particular occupations animate his landscapes. He specialized in marine subjects: seaports, naval battles, storms at sea, and shipwrecks. He later traveled to Spain and Portugal, where he painted their harbors; an album of these views remains in a Lisbon collection.

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