John A. Noble, 'Tug Procession', also titled 'Four Generations of Tugs off Staten Island', lithograph, 1949, edition 200, Urban 15. Signed and titled in pencil. A fine, richly-inked impression, on off-white, wove paper, with full margins ( 1 1/8 to 1 7/8 inches), in excellent condition. Matted to museum standards, unframed.
An impression of this work is included in The Noble Maritime Collection.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in Paris, John A. Noble was the son of the noted American
painter, John 'Wichita Bill' Noble. He spent his early years in the
studios of his father and his father's contemporaries, innovative
artists and writers of the early 20th century. He moved with his
family to the US in 1919, a year that had great significance to him
and foreshadowed his life's work. 'It was the greatest wooden ship
launching year in the history of the world,' he wrote. 'About 1929...
in the wintertime, while still going to school, I was a permanent
fixture on the old McCarren line tugs, which had the monopoly on
the schooner towing in New York Harbor. In the summertime, I
would go to sea.'
A graduate of the Friends Seminary in New York City, Noble
returned to France in 1931, where he studied for one year at the
The University of Grenoble. Returning to New York, he studied for
another year at the National Academy of Design. From 1928
through 1945, Noble worked as a seaman on schooners and in
marine salvage. In 1928, while on a schooner that was towing out
down the Kill van Kull, the waterway that separates Staten Island
from New Jersey, he saw the old Port Johnston coal docks for the
first time. It was a sight, he later asserted, which affected him for
life. Port Johnston was 'the largest graveyard of wooden sailing
vessels in the world.' Filled with new but obsolete ships, the
Coalport had become a great boneyard. In 1941, Noble began to
build his floating studio there, out of parts of vessels he salvaged,
and from 1946 on, he worked as a full-time artist, setting off from
his studio in a rowboat to explore the Harbor. These explorations
resulted in a unique and exacting record of Harbor history in which
its rarely documented characters, industries, and vessels are
Later in his life, Noble recalled his first compelling views of New
York Harbor. 'I was crossing the 134th Street Bridge on the
Harlem River on a spring day in 1928, and I was so shocked—it
changed my life. I was frozen on that bridge because both east
and west of the bridge were sailing vessels. And I thought sailing
vessels were gone... I was so excited.' By the time of his death in
the spring of 1983, the sailing vessels he loved were all gone, and
the maritime industry in the Harbor had diminished significantly.
But Noble's enthralling interest in the sea had not lessened.
Although he regretted the passing of obsolete vessels, he was
'just as interested in drawing the building of a great modern
tanker, the working of a modern dredge, as in the shifting of
topsails.' He wrote, 'Anywhere men work or build on the
water is of interest to me... My life's work is to make a rounded
picture of American maritime endeavor of modern times.'
—edited from the introductory copy to The Noble Maritime Museum