The end of an era

Burton K. Janes
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Whenever I drive to Hibbs Hole, now known by the more prosaic name of Hibb's Cove, and visit the Fisherman's Museum, I wonder why no biography has ever been written of its founder, George A. Noseworthy. Now, though, I need wonder no longer, for it is a fait accompli.

George Noseworthy, who was born in New York of Newfoundland parents in 1929, was an artist of some renown. Following a visit to Newfoundland in 1967, ostensibly to trace his roots, he took up residence at Hibbs Hole.

Ina Gifford's painting she did for artist George Noseworthy when she was a child.

Just wondering... -

Whenever I drive to Hibbs Hole, now known by the more prosaic name of Hibb's Cove, and visit the Fisherman's Museum, I wonder why no biography has ever been written of its founder, George A. Noseworthy. Now, though, I need wonder no longer, for it is a fait accompli.

George Noseworthy, who was born in New York of Newfoundland parents in 1929, was an artist of some renown. Following a visit to Newfoundland in 1967, ostensibly to trace his roots, he took up residence at Hibbs Hole.

According to the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, there and elsewhere he "founded an informal and innovative system of art and music centres for children, encouraging them to express themselves through art and music."

In 1968, he established the Fisherman's Museum, a first in Newfoundland. He died at 56 years of age in 1985.

Blue Ice

Creative Publishers in St. John's recently released Blue Ice: The Sealing Adventures of Artist George Noseworthy. Written by Daphne Noseworthy, George's widow, the book is a visual treat for the artistically weary. Daphne constructed her book around a diary George kept when he went to the ice in the annual seal hunt off Northern Labrador and Newfoundland in the Chesley A. Crosbie in 1970.

"I understand," George wrote, "that this is the first time an artist has done what I am about to attempt-actually go out on a seal hunt and paint the events as they happen."

Blue Ice is a retelling of this extraordinary adventure. However, it doubles as an illustrated biography of the man.

Daphne wrote the book because, she told me, "I made a promise to George years ago that some day I would write it for him." We are in her debt.

To the ice with George

George's diary invites the reader to vicariously accompany him.

There are shots of George and his father and brother. There is a photograph of summer at The Art Centre, with children working at their easels outside the Museum. (Who are those children, and where are they now?) There are photos of David Lear, Jacob Kennedy and David Mugford, engaged in painting. There is one of Mugford receiving an Art Scholarship from the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut. Even The Compass is featured in the book! According to Daphne, this newspaper "was always very kind to George, and followed him all through the early years at Hibbs Cove." And then, smack dab in the middle of George's diary are 37 full-colour, full-page paintings George did while at the hunt. All of them are striking.

A fine artist

Historian Gerald W. Andrews wrote, "From a commercial artist [George] evolved into a fine artist with an emphasis on realism and nature... His style then evolved to a more abstract mode he called rhythmics which depicted the unity and glow of rugged Newfoundland nature."

I recently visited friends in Coley's Point. When I mentioned George Noseworthy, Ina Gifford said, "I think I still have the painting I did for him when I was a child." She went downstairs and rooted it out of a lifetime of belongings. Holding it, I realized I had in my hands an object that George himself had held, as he examined the work of one of his child painters.

"Daphne," I asked her, "what did George contribute to Newfoundland and Labrador culture?"

She replied, "George exposed to and taught hundreds of children art, children who had never seen a painting, except in books, let alone have an artist hand them out paints, and brushes, and material to paint on, from his own supply, and encourage them to give it a try. It didn't matter if they were rich or poor, black or white, art was his life, and he wanted to share it with the world. And by so doing, I would like to think that the lives of the people he touched were made richer by his having taken the time to stop, and be himself."

According to Gerald Andrews, George Noseworthy lived and painted in "a vanishing society." By the time of his death, "the old way of life" had been transformed. The artist "had witnessed the end of an era."

I wish I had known George A. Noseworthy. This book is now the best next thing to knowing him in person.

burtonj@nfld.net

Organizations: Blue Ice, The Art Centre, Famous Artists School The Compass

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, New York, St. John's Northern Labrador Westport, Connecticut

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  • Brenda Beitenman
    November 16, 2010 - 14:39

    I am delighted to hear that Daphne has written a book about George Noseworthy. I will be sure to pick up a copy. I was a personal friend George and I have a set of small prints of the art that he did while on the seal hunt. I also have a portrait that he did of me when I was a young girl. I was very saddened that he died so young because he was a great artist and had a lot to contribute to society. I spent many hours in his house in Hibbs Cove and my daughter was the first contributor to the Fisherman's museum. Brenda