DENNIS NOBLE 1940-2014
Born in England during the second World War Dennis Noble came to Canada at thirteen. He left a challenging childhood behind that included the loss of a twin brother at birth, surviving the war and a tragic separation from his birth mother and her family. He was uprooted from his homeland by his father and step mother and put on a boat to Canada to begin a new life in Ontario.
Dennis was the artist born into a family of mechanics and was often put down for his interest and abilities in the visual arts. He persevered and went on to study at the Ontario College of Art from which he graduated in 1966. At this time Dennis, along with his class mate Hans Aarden, went on to become one of the first artists to paint murals in Toronto's colourful Kensington Market district.
He then launched a successful career as a commercial illustrator and his magazine/editorial art appeared regularly over the years in local periodicals such as Toronto Life and Maclean’s as well as internationally, winning him awards in Canada, the United States and Japan. He illustrated a number of book covers including ones for Timothy Findlay and Margaret Atwood, illustrated children’s books and was commissioned by Canada Post to design and paint a number of stamps. The berry stamps (2003), ten maple tree stamps for Canada Day (1994) and the lighthouse series which won him the Stamp of the Year award in 1981.
Dennis enjoyed working "dry" and his choice of medium to work with was acrylic paint, usually on wood or masonite. He dabbled with large canvases in the 70's but only used canvas a couple of times for the more recent Lovers series. His smaller editorial illustrations were painted on illustration board or wood with customized paint brushes.
Between 1966 and 1987 his paintings appeared in numerous galleries including shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Hazelton Lane Gallery, Market Gallery and The Pagurian Gallery in Toronto, where he was commissioned by Sir Christopher Ondaatje to push his technical skills and paint high realism. This style of painting was physically demanding and one that was short lived as it brought him no joy and he began to develop chronic neck and back issues.
"Blue" Acrylic on wood (1980's)
" Despite the international careers enjoyed by such editorial and advertising artists as Barry Blitt, Bill Boyko, David Chestnutt, Julius Ciss, Heather Cooper, Ken Dallison, Blair Drawson, Gail Geltner, Roger Hill, Tina Holdcroft, Doug Johnson, Anita Kunz, Doug Martin, John Martin, Willi Mitschka, Dennis Noble, Ken Nutt, Bill Russell, Joe Salina, Mark Summers, James Tughan, Barry Zaid and Hans Zander in the 1970s and '80s, illustration, like all the other arts, suffered badly from the recession that hit North America the latter part of the decade."
After the recession Dennis chose to move from the city. He opted out of the gallery circuit and illustration business to purchase a historic cobblestone church circa 1855 which he lovingly and painstakingly renovated over the years. Thus, birthing the Stonechurch Museum Of Art that functioned as his gallery, studio and life’s mission, housing the permanent collection of a new series of works entitled The Lovers. This was a prolific series which Dennis began painting in the early 1990s and continued to paint until the final year of his death in 2014. The Stonechurch was also home to a series of sought after bird paintings that Dennis painted after 2000, most of which are in the international collections of family, friends and art world associates.
Dennis Noble passed away in June 2014 leaving an accomplished, soulful legacy of whimsical work to be enjoyed and interpreted by future generations. The universal themes of duality, love, spirituality and the human condition are at the forefront of his Lover's series, but take your time with these contemporary works, notice the timeless relevance of his illustrations and get lost like lovers do, in the often-complex surrealism of his figures. He was a humble man, one of Canada's great working artists and a forefather of Canadian pop art style illustration of the 70's and 80's.
"Lovers 92" Acrylic on wood
"You can call it spiritual, you can call it what you like. It is when two people get lost in each other. It is the closest I come to formulate an understanding of life."
Dennis Noble on "The Lovers"