Fred Winslow Noyes/Noyes Museum of Art

Fred Winslow Noyes/Noyes Museum of Art An artist and ardent collector of art, antiquities, and folk art, Fred W. Noyes, Jr. was born in 1905 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of a textile designer. Although he grew up in an era when folk art was appreciated by only a small cadre of anthropologists and decorative arts collectors, he developed a sensibility that embraced this art form. The founder of the Noyes Museum of Art, Fred Noyes was an artist who never finished grammar school, but who went on to be listed among Who's Who in American Art and leave a multi-million dollar legacy to the residents of southern New Jersey. Today, his art continues to inspire a growing number of admirers and collectors, and his decoy collection enhances the public's appreciation of New Jersey's wildlife and artistry.

To know the artist, one has only to see his work to understand what inspired him-rivers, streams, birds, ducks, and other wildlife. To know the man, one must have an understanding of rural New Jersey, where Fred Noyes ultimately put down roots not only as an artist, but also as a benefactor to the community and its culture.

As an avid outdoorsman, Fred developed an affinity for the natural landscape and wildlife around Lower Bank and the Mullica River, an attraction that was later reflected in his paintings and love of local history. Although his success as a restaurateur brought him into contact with the wealthy and influential, he never felt that he lost his common touch and considered himself just "an old clam digger."

As a young man, Fred pursued his love of painting, attending the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on scholarship, an experience he found too constrictive. His study was terminated because he refused to curtail his experimentation with abstract styles, then popular in Europe. Noyes came to the attention of Albert Barnes, a noted modern art advocate, who invited Fred to refine his talents and art philosophy at the Barnes Foundation. There, he was influenced by Cézanne and the Fauvist artists, André Derain and Henri Matisse.

World War II interrupted Noyes' artistic progress. Fred joined the army and was sent to France, almost losing his legs and spending six months in an army hospital. He returned from the war on crutches, having earned sergeant's stripes and a Purple Heart. He then met his future wife, Ethel Marie Lingelbach, a member of the local rations board. The pair married, moved into a log cabin in Absecon, New Jersey, and went into the antiques business, a portent of their future endeavors together.

Their new business met with little success at first, though their ambitious efforts were prophetic. Operating from their basement floor, the Noyeses went to different houses asking if there was anything they could buy or sell. Local authorities said they couldn't conduct a business in a residential area. In a spirit of defiance and determination, Fred and Ethel moved their nascent shop to an Absecon hotel.

In 1952, Fred and Ethel Noyes founded what would become the Historic Town of Smithville when they bought an old stagecoach stop and its surrounding seven acres of land for $3,500. They turned the old building into an antiques shop but soon were operating a restaurant as well for the convenience of their customers. They began by offering sandwiches. Other services followed shortly afterward. "Our first bar was a card table and a bucket of ice on the floor," Fred reported with humor. By 1974, when they sold the property to the American Broadcasting Company for a reported $7 million, the complex covered 2300 acres and included three inns, a number of early American village shops, restored buildings and a small hotel.

Being of true entrepreneurial spirit, Fred and Ethel went on to develop The Ram's Head Inn nearby. Today, the restaurant is one of southern New Jersey's premiere dining establishments. Prior to its sale in 1979, Fred also maintained an art studio there.

Fred's particular passion was for working bird decoys, building a collection that contained at the time of his death in 1985 as many as 3,500 carvings from throughout the United States. The Noyes Museum of Art realized his dream of building a showcase for this collection. When it opened in 1983, the Museum displayed these treasures alongside of other folk art items the Noyeses had acquired over many years of collecting.

Fred Winslow Noyes died in 1987 of natural causes at the age of 82 but his legacy in South Jersey continues at the museum he founded.

The Noyes Museum of Art, Stockton University is located at 733 Lily Lake Rd. in Oceanville (Galloway Twp,).
609-652-8848
Monday through Saturday, 10am - 4:30pm; extended hours Thursdays until 8pm; Sunday noon to 5pm.

The Noyes Arts Garage at Stockton University is located at 2200 Fairmount Ave. in Atlantic City.
(609) 626-3805

The Noyes Museum Shop is located at 5 South Second St. in Hammonton.
609-561-8006
Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, 10am - 5pm; Thursday & Friday, 1 - 8pm.

Check out the Noyes Museum of Art online at noyesmuseum.org.

5/6/15

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Author: Editor; Noyes Museum

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