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 Thomas Satterwhite Noble  (1835 - 1907)

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Lived/Active: Ohio      Known for: portrait, genre-history, still life

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Ad Code: 3
Thomas Satterwhite Noble
from Auction House Records.
The Polish Exile
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Thomas Satterwhite Noble was born in Lexington, Kentucky, at a time when Lexington was the center of Kentucky's slave trade. Noble grew up on a plantation, where his father was a hemp and cotton farmer who also operated a rope and bagging factory in St. Louis, where slaves were used as hired hands through contract for hire arrangement with slave traders in Lexington. As a child, Thomas would play with the slave children that lived in small cabins at the back of the family home, and after dark listen to their elders tell ghost stories. Often he would bring biscuits in trade for an accompanied journey back to the main house after a night of scary ghost stories.

He attended Transylvania University and studied art with Oliver Frazer (1808-1864) and George P.A. Healy (1813-1894). In 1853, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New York City, and by 1856 he was studying art in Paris with the historical painter Thomas Couture from 1856 1859.

Noble returned to the United States in 1859. He was 26 at the start of the Civil War
and despite his opposition to slavery, served as a captain in the Confederate Army, 1861 1865. After the Civil War, Noble returned to St. Louis in 1865 and explored the lives of freed slaves in America in a series of historical and allegorical paintings.

Noble opened a studio in New York City in 1866 and spent summers painting with George Inness in the Catskills. In 1857 he became an Associate of the National Academy and was appointed head of the McMicken School of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1868. In 1881 he traveled to Munich, returning to Cincinnati in 1883 and later retired from McMicken School in 1904. He moved to Bensonhurst, New York and died in New York City in 1907.

Fine Art Dealers Association,

The Morris Museum,

1. Birchfield, James, Albert Boime, and William Hennessy. Thomas Satterwhite Noble, 1835-1907. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Art Museum, 1988.

2. Pennington, Estill Curtis. A Southern Collection. Augusta, GA: Morris Communications Corporation, 1992.

3. Pennington, Estill Curtis. Look Away: Reality and Sentiment in Southern Art. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers, 1989.

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Thomas Satterwhite Noble grew up in an environment of slave holders and slave traders. The son of a prosperous family who maintained ropewalks for the twisting of hemp into binding cords for Southern cotton, he departed his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky for art studies in Louisville with Samuel Woodson Price. It was through Price that Noble learned of the atelier of Thomas Couture in Paris, France; he enrolled there in 1856, enhancing his drawing skills by working from plaster casts and life models, and absorbing the painterly trends in naturalism so apparent in his heavily glazed and textured surfaces.

Noble returned to America in 1858 with a heightened artistic and social consciousness. He joined his family in St. Louis, where his father had relocated the rope business. Though not a supporter of the institution of slavery, Noble enlisted in the Confederate army’s Corps of Engineers and served three years, operating ropewalks and building pontoon bridges in Louisiana. At war’s end, he moved back to St. Louis before relocating to New York in 1866. Between 1866 and 1869, Noble painted a series of five pictures dealing with slavery and abolition: The Last Sale of Slaves, John Brown’s Blessing, Margaret Garner, The Price of Blood and Fugitives in Flight. Scholars believe these works may reflect the artist’s “underlying sense of guilt for his participation in the conflict and [stand] in remembrance of his childhood experiences.”

A member of the National Academy of Design, Noble left New York for Cincinnati in 1869 to accept a post as professor of art and the principal of the McMicken School of Design. During his tenure there, he turned to other subject matter, especially history paintings that foreshadowed the colonial revival movement, and resumed his practice of portraiture. It was around this time that Noble painted Forgiven, a work believed to be inspired by the poem “Counsel” by Edgar Fawcett which had been published in the July 1872 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Though the painting was not well received by audiences who found the scene morbid, Forgiven received the silver medal at the 1872 Cincinnati Industrial Exposition.

After 1877, Noble maintained a second residence in New York City. In 1881, he embarked on a two-year leave of absence from the McMicken School in order to study at the increasingly influential Munich Academy. Upon his retirement from teaching in 1904, he moved full time to New York, where he died in 1907.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Thomas Satterwhite Noble was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended Transylvania University in his native city and studied art with Oliver Frazer (1808-1864) and George P.A. Healy (1813-1894). In 1853, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New York City, and by 1856 he was studying art in Paris with the historical painter Thomas Couture. Noble returned to the United States in 1859. During the American Civil War he served with the Confederate Army despite his aversion to slavery and sympathy for the plight of African Americans in the South. After the war he moved to Saint Louis and explored the lives of freed slaves in America in a series of historical and allegorical paintings. Noble made New York City his home and died there in 1907.

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