The Sketch: Willard Leroy Metcalf and Thomas Satterwhite Noble

Jan 25 2020 to Mar 20 2021
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Sketch by Thomas Satterwhite Noble

An artist’s sketch can contain the germ of an idea, the excitement of fresh vision, and a visceral testament of the communication between hand and eye. Sketches can be studies for more developed final works, a place to block out compositions, or a testing ground for color and materials. They can be visual diaries of foreign trips or a detailed accounting of domestic bird sightings, accompanied by detailed notes on plumage. All of these and more can be found in the sketchbooks and loose sketches of the artists Willard Metcalf and Thomas Satterwhite Noble.

American Impressionist Willard Metcalf hailed from Boston and spent many summers working at art colonies in New England, but the most lasting impact on his art were the five years he spent studying in France. Metcalf became a part of the American Colony in Giverny, near the home of the famed French Impressionist Claude Monet. There are sketches of Giverny and Montmartre in France, as well as a trip to Mexico, which will be displayed in rotation to limit light exposure. Evidently, the artist was also an avid birder, judging by his detailed drawings and notes.

Thomas Satterwhite Noble was a native of Lexington who studied with several Kentucky artists before traveling to Paris. After serving in the Confederate Army in the Civil War, Noble moved to New York and executed a series paintings with anti-slavery themes. He later became director of the McMicken School of Design (which later became the Art Academy of Cincinnati). Among his sketchbooks and loose drawings are studies of trees and landscapes, along with scenes of European travels. While he often does not record the location—familiar to him, of course—he does make detailed notes of what colors to use in later paintings.

credit line: Thomas Satterwhite Noble, Sketchbook, circa 1905, graphite pencil on paper, bound. Collection of the UK Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Peter Sterling Mueller in the name of Mrs. E. Louise Welleck Greenman (Granddaughter of Thomas S. Noble and mother of Peter S. Mueller, M.D.).

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