· France, Private Collection.
Sea and landscape painter, Jules Assez Noël almost entirely devoted himself to Breton and Norman subjects. He was born in Nancy where his parents lived for two years before returning to Brittany. Emotionally very close to his mother, he adopted her inverted N with which she signed her correspondence as part of his own artistic signature. His father, an engineer at Ponts et Chaussées, taught him the basics of drawing and registered him at the Academy of Louis-Gabriel Charioux. Subsequently in Paris, Noël studied drawing under Jean-Victor Bertin who also had Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot as a student. In 1835, he was tenured as a drawing professor at Lorient and the following year, exhibited at the Salon des Beaux-Arts in Nantes for the first time.
Introduced to the nautical world by his brother-in-law, a naval artillery lieutenant, he became familiar with maritime maneuvers and sail details. He received the protection of the Duke of Nemours who commissioned a subject from him for the Historical Museum of Versailles (The Duke and Duchess of Nemours embark on a Launch in the Brest Roadstead on August 10th, 1843, oil on canvas, Versailles, inv. MV 6951), and was appointed Drawing Professor at the Henri IV Royal College.
Noël participated in almost every Salon from 1846 to 1879, where he exhibited mainly seascapes produced during his sojourns in Brittany and Normandy. He thus painted an ex-voto for the Basilica of Auray at the request of sailors in the fleet in 1871, as well as a series of drawings of the Brest Convicts Prison.
Le Tréport, the most depicted Norman town in the artist’s œuvre, is the subject of our oil on canvas. Noël stayed there during the Prussian Occupation and the Commune, and again between 1869 and 1878. Our work is particularly close to a View of the Port of Tréport at Low Tide. Here, the tide is at its lowest, so a fisherman can walk on the sand next to the boats. The artist directs the viewer’s gaze towards the imposing cliffs, among the highest in the Pays de Caux, rather than towards the town as in the 1869 canvas. As his eyesight weakened, Noël’s pictorial technique changed during the last period of his life. In our picture, the ship hulls are rendered with great economy of line and capture essentials, rather than details. His restrained brushwork allowed the painter to concentrate on the scene’s atmosphere bathed in the pale light of a cloudy sky.
General Literature (Unpublished Work)
Michel RODRIGUE and André CARIOU, Jules Noël, Quimper, 2005.