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The artist who captured Ireland in the 1800s with thousands of watercolours

George Victor du Noyer travelled around Ireland drawing various features, accompanied by his spaniel Mr Buff.

Du Noyer Exhibition at Craword Art Gallery Source: George Victor Du Noyer

GEORGE VICTOR DU Noyer, a resident of Dublin, spent a great proportion of his life travelling by foot around the south-east corner of Ireland documenting Irish geological features and societies.

The Irish painter, geologist and antiquarian left behind a legacy of over 5,000 watercolours and drawings, dating from his school days to the year of his death in 1869.

Employed by Ordinance Survey and the Geological Survey, Du Noyer walked the countryside documenting everything that he saw through his scientific drawings.

When he started his work as a surveyor, photography hadn’t been invented, but by the time he died cameras were well-advanced. Despite this, Du Noyer never used a camera, he documented towns, villages, landscapes, coastal scenes, and archaeological features through line drawings and watercolours.

An exhibition at Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery will showcase 150 pieces of his work from the 17 November, on the 200 anniversary of Du Noyer’s birth.

Du Noyer Gale from the SW Arklow Harbour. Source: George Victor Du Noyer

Curator and historian Peter Murray told TheJournal.ie that Du Noyer’s “scientific drawings” and “objective eye” makes his work stand out from others done during the years of the Great Famine.

“When you see his work, he was quite systematic in his documentation. He had a very good eye for people [and there's a] lack of stereotyping in his work.

“It also has a fresh contemporary modern feel – whereas other artists went seeking out images which conformed to what they were trying to depict, he had a quite objective eye.”

Du Noyer had a passion for sailing as well, and it’s claimed that his sketches and notebooks suggest a sense of ease and kinship with those around him. He was often accompanied on his travels by his beloved water spaniel, Mr Buff.

Du Noyer 2 Hook Head Co. Wexford. Lower Limestone. Source: George Victor Du Noyer

Among the features he had an interest in, was drawing the cliffs at Duncannon from the sea so that he could see the stratification of the cliffs.

He also followed the railway tracks that were being built at the time, documenting the earth exposed from the building of the railway.

“He doesn’t deal in the spectacular,” Murray said. “They’re scientific drawings. There was a purpose to the Survey.”

“Here you’ve an artist travelling throughout Ireland during the Famine, and he doesn’t portray harrowing scenes as he wasn’t in the west of Ireland, he was mostly in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Cork, and Meath.”

Du Noyer 3 Macroom, January 1853 Source: George Victor Du Noyer

Wherever you go in Ireland you’ll find Du Noyer searched out these places to look at the geology.

The exhibition “Stones, Slabs and Seascapes” will feature loans from the collections of the Royal Irish Academy, National Botanic Gardens, the National Museum of Ireland, the Royal Society of Antiquaries, the Geological Survey Ireland and the National Archives. 

Read: ‘It can save lives. I know it saved mine’: Amateur painters create a very personal Darkness Into Light

Read: Looted paintings owned by a Nazi-era art dealer have gone on display

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