Gustave Nouel is one of the world’s brightest artistic talents. A native of Aruba and resident of the Netherlands, his works have been used to help bridge the gap between Dutch territories in the Caribbean and the European continent. Kreol takes a look at his life and works.
When we think of art in the 21st century, our minds tend to drift back to the artistic greats from past centuries. In so doing, we inadvertently ignore the talents and contributions to society from modern artists. Gustave Nouel is described by many artistic observers and critics as a modern virtuoso who has produced some of the most well-respected art collections in the world today. His work has been featured in over 200 international expositions, some of which were one-man shows that included only his works.
Gustave Nouel is a native of the Caribbean nation of Aruba. The nation was once part of the Netherlands Antilles, and today is one of the four constituent countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other nations that form the kingdom include Netherlands, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. Who is Gustave the individual? What are some of his famous works? Most importantly, where does he draw his inspiration from?
Gustave: The Man
Growing up in Dutch-controlled Aruba, Gustave was a young man with talent that was evident from the beginning. According to the Nouel, himself, artistic talent runs in the family. His uncle (on his mother’s side) is Padú del Caribe, an Aruban musician and songwriter who is affectionately known as the “Father of the Caribbean.” His real name is Juan Chabaya Lampe, and his most notable work is the waltz “Aruba Dushi Tera,” a song which now serves as the national anthem for Aruba.
Talent exists on his father’s side of the family as well. Writer, lawyer, and politician Cola Debrot is a distant relative of Gustave’s father. He was born in Kralendijk in Bonaire before moving to Curacao at the age of 2. His family eventually sent him to the Netherlands at the age of 14 for educational reasons, where he eventually started a literary career. Following World War II, he returned to Curacao and laid the foundations for Dutch-Antillean literature with his works.
Thanks to his own natural gifts and inherited genes, Gustave was viewed as “exceptionally talented” by his teachers at a young age. He received encouragement in his artistic endeavours from the Aruban government. The Dutch Art Academy even described him as “possessing extraordinary artistic talent.” As a result, he was awarded an exceptional grant from the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles that allowed him to pursue post-university art studies in Madrid, Spain.
It takes only one glance at many of Gustave’s paintings to see that the vibrant culture of Aruba is always on his mind. Although he splits his time living between the Netherlands and Aruba, the tropical paradise he was born into is evident in the colors, concepts, and imagery of many of his artistic works. However, helping inspire and guide budding artists also drives Gustave. He has conducted a number of successful workshops at the Access Art Gallery in Oranjestad in conjunction with PALET, a leading art magazine in Aruba. On helping others begin the pursuit of art, he said the following:
“I very much enjoy observing the pleasure it gives individuals when they are inspired. It is surprising what talent is undiscovered, and I find it gratifying when people see what they are capable of, even though they never thought that they could do it.”
Many of Gustave’s past works have become legendary throughout the Caribbean, Netherlands, and Europe. His Jazz Art exposition was first displayed in the Dutch Pavilion at the World Expo Seville 1992. The Jazz Art gallery included numerous works feature jazz artists, and has been described as a melting pot of styles and techniques. His international profile grew further with this New Biblical Art gallery displayed in the Art Expo New York 2000.
Among his greater works are the House of Orange project and an emerging project in Curacao. The House of Orange project chronicles the history of the monarchs of Holland’s past. His inspiration in pursuing this extensive project, which includes portraits of monarchs such as King Willem III, Queen Julianna, and Queen Beatrix, is to create a bridge between the various parts of the Dutch Kingdom. Some of his works from the House of Orange project will be included in an exhibition in Zwolle next March as part of a celebration of 200 years of the Dutch Kingdom.
Already a legendary artist in Aruba, Gustave is now working on a new project in neighbouring Curacao. In 2013, he was invited to lead a group of high-profile artists from throughout the Caribbean and the greater Dutch Kingdom in a creative project. Along with various Curacao ministers and other artists, Gustave helped create the longest painting in the world to raise funds for the construction of a new art academy in Curacao.
His fame is beginning to reach the South American continent as well. In early 2014, he was invited to participate in the first cultural exchange between the Dutch Kingdom and the nation of Venezuela. The invitation consisted of Gustave providing master classes to Venezuelan artists and hosting speed-painting performances. The project has yet to be realized in full, but it does represent his ever-increasing international profile.