He fabricated bespoke appliance for Françoise Sagan; was encouraged to anticipate bigger by Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais; his accouchement were accustomed sticker books handmade by the artisan Jacques Prevert; but it’s absurd you’ve heard of Alexandre Noll. An artisan and designer, alive from the 1920s to a few years afore his afterlife in 1970, Noll spent his canicule hidden abroad in a flat in Fontenay-aux-Roses, authoritative aloof casual visits to Paris’s Left Bank cafés 15km away. In his burghal aback garden he created baby objects, again furniture, and assuredly ample abstruse sculptures. When arthritis destroyed his chiral strength, he went aback to painting and animation for the aftermost years of his life.
Now, Bonhams in New York is dedicating a accomplished auction to his assignment on December 12, cherry-picking the slicker genitalia of his practice, and absolutely acquisitive to adjust his name with added practitioners of awful collectible 20th-century art and design.
Noll’s assignment absolutely stands out, from the cautiously carved board pieces — intricate awning handles in atramentous and maple with eggshell inlay, affected trays and annular amber boxes with inlaid sycamore lids that awash at chichi Parisian emporia — to the after affiliated sculptures, with uprights and cross-braces hewn from knotted, awry copse that accept an about religious power.
In the average comes appliance that, at its best extreme, can be an acquired taste: sometimes wilfully rustic, consistently berserk present, it’s carved out of solid pieces of wood, finer with actual little grain. A alternation of barrel-shaped bars, for example, wouldn’t attending out of abode in the animation cavern the Flintstones alleged home.
One such, from 1946, is accepted as “the tooth” and sits today in the building at Roubaix in arctic France. Hewn from beech and adulatory every aftermost bane and able in the accustomed wood, it shows Noll’s adulation of block anon into the material, again cutting it all bottomward to a cottony sheen. Another, which will go beneath the bang in December, was fabricated in 1947 in a aphotic sapele as glassy as a wet otter’s coat, and seems to be continuing on its afterwards legs.
Noll was built-in in Reims, north-eastern France, in 1890, and acquainted the abounding appulse of two above wars. He grew up in Savoy, on the Swiss-Italian border, with parents of German descent, who had alone become naturalised French citizens in the 1870s. When war bankrupt out in 1914, he was beatific to the Dardanelles. Art became a ameliorative apparatus adjoin the abhorrence of wartime experience.
“He was addled by it,” says his grandson Dominique, in an account he gave to Bonhams. “You can see that in the copse engravings he did at the time.” In a Symbolist style, they are abounding with dark, atramentous houses and scurrying atramentous figures.
Once demobbed, Noll absitively not to chase his appointed aisle into the ancestors cyberbanking business. Now affiliated and with a child, he acclimated his ancestors money to buy the 1910 abode in Fontenay-aux-Roses and started his life-long adulation activity with wood.
First, he fabricated the adorning awning handles, again board clog-type soles for a shoe aggregation alleged Perugia. Paul Poiret, the aboriginal clothier to deliver the changeable anatomy from bankrupt waists and put ankles on show, commissioned a alternation of organically agee lamp stands.
Clearly not allowed to the aesthetic impulses of the time — Jean Dubuffet’s art brut; Jean/Hans Arp’s abstraction in the round; Brancusi’s assertive and beat carvings — Noll seems to accept paid affluence of absorption to the billow of these avant-garde movements, again followed his own path. Instinctive and intellectual, archaic and polished, his absolute disciplinarian is the actual itself, his absolute bulk a admiration to its accustomed qualities.
In the additional apple war, and already 50, Noll abutting the “camouflage brigade”, a accumulation of artists commissioned to appear up with new patterns. Having shored up the basement of his abode with bare railway sleepers to actualize a bombproof room, he started to carve appliance and sculptural works out of these massive pieces of wood.
There are chests with handles sculpted out of the drawer fronts that attending like animal eyelids; others with organically frilled edges or massive board locks; tables and chairs that could accept appear from a 16th-century farmhouse. Vernacular, anthropomorphic, historicist, all accomplished off with a able sheen. When he moves on to sculpture, from the aboriginal 1950s to 1965, it is abstention of anatomy that prevails.
In June, Bonhams awash four works by Noll in Paris. “It went well, and Dominique, who still has a lot of the work, absitively it would be a acceptable abstraction to align a added auction in New York,” says Benjamin Walker of Bonhams. “The address for him is assuredly to acquaint the adventure of Alexandre Noll, and for added bodies to adore the work.” It is acceptable that a cardinal of museums will be behest for assertive pieces, admitting Walker hopes that is alone bisected the story. “It’s actual concrete work,” he says. “As abundant as it looks acceptable in a vitrine, I anticipate bodies should alive with at atomic some of it.”
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