Robert Noble Centenary Exhibition: Painting the Landscape of East Lothian

This exhibition celebrated the life and work of Robert Noble, one of East Linton’s most significant artists, 100 years on from his death on 12th May 1917. It was on show at the John Gray Centre Museum from 13th May to 5th July 2017.

'An Old Castle Orchard, Longniddry', by Robert Noble

‘An Old Castle Orchard’, by Robert Noble

Born in Edinburgh from a humble background, Noble’s artistic talents were recognised as a youth, training first as a lithographer and attending classes at the Trustees School at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA).

Like many other Scottish artists of his generation, Noble’s career path took him to France for study where he became a committed proponent of the ‘Barbizon School’ philosophy – working directly outdoors in the landscape, recording pastoral scenes, villages and farm workers. This group were quite revolutionary for their time in the 1870’s and 80’s – the forerunners of what we know today as Impressionism.

Robert Noble painting

Robert Noble at Work, private collection

Robert returned to Scotland inspired by this experience, and in search of a landscape similar to the Barbizon ideals, settled for the rest of his life with his family in East Linton. The surrounding Lothian countryside perfectly satisfied his search for subject matter and the bulk of the paintings displayed in this exhibition show the local landscape which so inspired him.

East Linton at Dusk by Robert Noble

East Linton at Dusk by Robert Noble

Noble was central to the group of like-minded painters, working in and around East Linton, which at the turn of the century developed a significant reputation as a centre of artistic activity. Robert was a very active member of the local community – a keen golfer, angler, curler and Kirk member – a catalyst and welcoming face for fellow artists from Edinburgh and further afield.

Robert Noble’s historical legacy to Scottish Art was as a founder member of the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA) in 1891, becoming its first president. The SSA from the outset welcomed the admission of women and younger artists and encouraged new thinking about the direction of Art in Scotland.