Georges NOËL FR, 1924-2010

“I listen to what recurs [1].”

Although Georges Noël’s art could be associated with art informel and lyrical abstraction, he always expressed his independence from any movement. An important figure on the European scene in the 1960s, in 1968 he left France for the United States, where he lived and worked until 1983. From early in his career, Noël multiplied technical experiments and invented what he called his pictorial “magma”, a personal medium to which he remained loyal throughout his life, and in which is rooted his signature style.

“…it was through myself that I tried to find the universe again. Getting out of the center, going over there, coming back here. That recreated in me the enigma of a thinking, breathing, hearing, smelling, touching individual. I was like an alchemist in a laboratory,”
as the artist said to writer Michel Butor. [2]

The medium that Georges Noël invented is a combination of a polyvinyl acetate glue that is particularly resistant once dry, sand or ground silex, and pure pigments. He worked with this unique material, applying densely coloured layers, in which the raw surface, granular or velvety, appeals to the eye and the sense of touch. His complete mastery of his technique allowed him to work quickly. Incisions, graffiti, writing, superpositions, surface rips or tears… reveal the primitive strata of the artwork and bear witness to his fascination for prehistoric, archaic, and tribal cultures.

“These palimpsests,” wrote Philippe Dagen recently, “resemble the traces of bygone civilisations. They also invite comparisons with the art of Noël’s contemporaries, and particularly with Cy Twombly. The question then becomes: why is Noël’s work – no less powerful than Twombly’s – not as often shown or held in as high esteem?” [3]

The historical scope of the painted, drawn, and sculpted work of Georges Noël is broad: it was promoted by the Galerie Paul Facchetti as of 1957, then in New York by the Pace Gallery and the Arnold Herstand Gallery from 1973 onwards. Upon his return to France in 1983, he prepared a major exhibition at the Abbaye de Senanque and a retrospective at the CNAP in Paris in 1985. The evolution of his painting shows a synthesis of the gestural idiom of his beginnings and an underlying structure established during his American period. Commencing in those years, he regularly exhibited in Paris, Italy, Germany, and Japan, where his work is particularly appreciated.

Today, Georges Noël’s artworks are in institutions around the world. They are notably found in France at the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou, at the MAM - Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris, and the Pinault Collection in Paris, the Musée d’arts de Nantes as well as in many prestigious foreign collections such as in Germany, at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, in the United States at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, or in Japan, at the Ise Cultural Foundation in Tokyo.



[1] Michel Butor, “Alchimie du silence” in Gladys Fabre, Georges Noël (Paris: La Différence, 1997), 24.
[2] Georges Noël to Michel Butor, in Fabre, Georges Noël, 20.
[3] Philippe Dagen, “Sélection galerie”, Le Monde, 4 December 2021.