Also known as
R. P. Noble,
P.? Richard Noble
A painter who dealt mainly in portraiture. He painted portraits for many of Sydney's leading residents and exhibited his works in various exhibitions. His last known oil painting is a portrait of Elizabeth Solomon.
painter, was very probably the student of that name who enrolled at the London Royal Academy Schools in 1828. As the son of Robert Heysham Noble, an oil painter who specialised in coastal scenes, he could well have used 'R.P. Noble’, with its distinguishing middle initial, when exhibiting a watercolour, Near East Malling, Kent , at the Royal Academy in 1841. Richard Noble possibly brought this and other paintings to New South Wales. A painting by 'Noble’ entitled East Malling, Kent was in Sydney by 20 July 1847 when described by the Sydney Morning Herald , along with a Dutch landscape by Tasker, as 'two clever sketches by artists who know well how to handle their tools’. When next exhibited in Sydney – at the 1849 exhibition of the Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Australia – East Malling, Kent was owned by the father of the painter Frederick Garling (also Frederick). E. Salamon lent an untitled 'Noble’ landscape to the same exhibition that had also been shown in 1847.
Richard Noble does not seem to have lived in Sydney nor relied on advertising his abilities. The first documented evidence that he was in the colony is found early in 1855 when he was commissioned to execute portraits of the Scarvell family of Clare House, Pitt Town, near Windsor. It was a major commission and Noble moved into the Scarvell residence for nearly twelve months in order to execute it. According to family tradition, he formed a romantic attachment to Sarah Winifred Isabella Mary Scarvell, then aged eighteen; another family tale is that he had only one arm. He painted Captain John Larking Scarvell-who came from East Malling, Kent-his wife Sarah, née Redmond, and probably all their eight children. Five of the children’s portraits are known; two – of Elizabeth and John Scarvell – are in the State Library of New South Wales, acquired from a descendant in 1999. However, if portraits were made of the two youngest girls they have been lost. Scarvell also produced a view of the nearby Anglican church of St Matthew, Windsor (private collection).
Extant portraits by Noble of leading Sydney residents include that of Governor FitzRoy’s daughter, the Hon. Mrs Keith Stewart (1855, Old Government House, Parramatta), a commission he received after James Wilson drowned. Noble’s portrait of Commander Robert Johnston (1856, Mitchell Library), son of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston, a former lieutenant-governor of New South Wales and the first Australian-born subject to enter the Royal Navy, was modelled on a much earlier portrait of Johnston by the English painter R.C. George and replicated its inaccurate background view of Sydney Harbour. James WilshireMLA, a former mayor of Sydney, lent Noble’s portrait of him (1856, Sydney Town Hall) to the third exhibition of the Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Australia in 1857. Noble himself contributed seven paintings to the show: an English landscape, three copies – Copy of Lucretia , Copy of Beatrice Cenci (presumably after Guido Reni) and Madonna and Child – and three portraits. He probably also exhibited an Italian landscape after Zucarelli. None was specifically noted by local reviewers, who had a decided preference for Old Master and British paintings; Marshall Claxton was the only 'colonial’ artist acclaimed.
Noble’s portraits almost invariably reveal a keen interest in the depiction of fabrics, laces and ribbons, a skill shown to particular advantage in two highly idealised child studies, The Russell-Jones Children (1857, Art Gallery of New South Wales) and Benedotto John Bernasconi , son of the Sydney carver and frame-maker Benedotto Bernasconi (1860, Joseph Brown Collection, Melbourne). His last extant work is an extremely competent and sensitive portrait of Elizabeth Solomon, wife of an affluent bullion merchant, painted at Sydney in 1862 (Art Gallery of South Australia [AGSA], purchased 1986); the companion portrait of her husband John is lost. Other portraits include Mr John Thomas and Mrs John Thomas (1858, National Gallery of Australia), members of the Knox and Macartney families, and several unknowns (the Mitchell Library holds a pair inscribed 'Sydney, 1862’ and a fine portrait of a Sydney gentleman, possibly Hugh McKay, of 1856). His oil portrait of Father J. Conway was among the paintings raffled at St Augustine’s Catholic Church bazaar in 1870. He did landscapes, e.g. Market Square from Bradley’s Mill, Goulburn n.d. (Dixson Galleries), and excellent animal paintings, e.g. The Favourite Gig Horse, Napoleon, the Property of Michael Marred Esq. 1858 (AGSA).
All Noble’s surviving works are oil paintings. Most are signed 'Richard Noble’ and inscribed with the date and, occasionally, with the place of execution. He was first listed as an artist in Cox & Co.'s Sydney Post Office Directory for 1857 at 246 George Street, then not again until Sands Sydney Directory for 1864 locates him at Lansdowne Street, Newtown. The following year his address was given as 612 George Street, Sydney. After this he seems to have disappeared, unless he is the otherwise unknown 'J.’ Noble, listed as an artist of Nelson Street, Newtown, in 1867. His death is not recorded in New South Wales; a letter from his nephew suggests he later went to Italy where he was still living in 1900.