Gustavo Novoa was born in 1941 into a family of lawyers in Santiago, Chile. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts followed by a year of law school, only to learn that a career behind a desk was not going to satisfy his quest in life.
Accordingly, Gustavo Novoa made his debut as an artist in the early 1960’s selling watercolors and works in crayon on the streets of Paris, principally Monmartre. His first one-man show was sponsored by the Chilean Ambassador at the Maison de L’Amerique Latin in 1961. The late Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain sponsored his second show in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1962. Showing in galleries in the Faubourg St. Honoré and the Salon de la Jeune Peinture, Novoa completed his Parisian foundation and shortly thereafter became an adoptive “New Yorker”. He credits the move to being lured, like many others, by the American dream and, true to Novoa’s pop nature, to the romance of movies such as West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Wizard of Oz.
A successful partnership with Guy Burgos and later, Lady Sarah Churchill, led to the opening of the Burgos Gallery on Manhattan’s east side in 1965. By then, his style had evolved into textured oils that the New York Times’ critic, Stuart Preston said, “Novoa seeks to discover in his often fanciful landscapes and still-lives is their identity; that special something that makes them unique.” By the late sixties, Novoa’s subjects had morphed into the gentle jungle denizens that were to be his trademark.
Bonds with reality are very hard to shake once you establish them. However, in touch with the sublime, Novoa constructed a dream-like new jungle where the lion lies down with the zebra. Panthers and pandas share the shade with African monkeys and American raccoons. The gently radiant colors of Novoa’s luxuriant foliage seem to wield a mystical power, the power of bringing together: both predator and prey, both the strong and the meek. Opposite forces transcend the ruthless laws of nature to bring harmony to the whole composition and essence of living.
Gustavo Novoa became represented exclusively by Wally Findlay Galleries in the early 1970s, and his one-man shows in New York, Paris, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills established him as a champion of the environment and wildlife conservation. His animals were primitive and painted in lush and colorful backgrounds. In 1977, the publication of his book, Jungle Fables, for which he wrote the text and executed the paintings, was a collection of rhymes on “vice and virtue” that gave a new dimension to his animals, making them more anthropomorphic and philosophical. Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey commissioned him to do their poster and program for the circus that same year.
By 1971, Novoa explored a new narrative. His show, “The Grand Tour”, sent his animals prowling the major cities of the world; from the Spanish Steps in Rome to the Left Bank in Paris, through the Great Pyramids and back to Park Avenue in New York. It was perhaps the most surrealistic of Novoa’s shows.
In 1986, Gustavo Novoa visited Arizona and New Mexico and returned to his palette knife paintings of the sixties with a new subject matter showing the American influence in his work. He depicted the Arizona desert and the Indian pueblos with haunting and surreal qualities under a heavy impasto. He called it his adobe period. Following on from this he created a group of paintings of Deco Architecture. Miami’s Preservation League commissioned him to create the cover of the program for the Art-Deco weekend and his painting Dreamline-Streamline became the theme of the event. His one-man show at the Steiner Gallery in Bal Harbour landed him the cover story of the Miami Herald on January 14, 1988.
On April 3, 1988, Prince Charles of England set a new record for Novoa’s sales by auctioning one of his paintings at a benefit sale in Palm Beach.
Wally Findlay Galleries, in keeping with Novoa’s jungle theme, held a one-man show of his animal paintings in Palm Beach in December 1990. On April 26, 1991, Novoa was received at the White House by Mrs. George Bush. Miami’s Art Deco District had chosen Novoa’s painting, The Carlyle Hotel, to be presented to the First Lady. The painting was hung in the President’s Library.
Returning to South America 30 years later, Gustavo Novoa was honored by Gallery 1-2-3 of El Salvador in their prestigious Latin American Biennale exhibition. Instituto Cultural de Santiago also presented an impressive one-man show in that same year, whereby the Chilean press named Novoa, “The Painter of a Lost Paradise”. Avensa Airlines of Venezuela, then sponsored Novoa’s first one-man show in Caracas, at Galeria Oscar Ascanio in June of 1993.
In 1997 Gustavo Novoa again released a book published by Palette Publications of Miami, Florida titled, Paradise Found, a retrospective book based on Novoa’s work over the past three decades. Wally Findlay Galleries acknowledged this accomplishment with a series of exhibitions and book signings at their galleries in New York and Palm Beach. Another turning point in Novoa’s career was his surrealist exhibition Art from Art that opened in March, 1998 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago, Chile.
A retrospective of Novoa’s work from over 35 years in support of wildlife and, specifically wild cats, was celebrated in June 2010 at Wally Findlay Galleries, New York. In a very special partnership, a private preview reception was hosted by Wally Findlay Galleries in support of Panthera – an organization whose mission is to save the world’s wild cat species and their habitats- on June 15, 2010 in New York.