"pixilated man"

Nineteenth-century German ceramic doll

He made his own path.

John Darcy Noble, noted eccentric and expert on playthings of all ages, a leading museum curator, theorist and collector and creator of toys as amusements and as art, died in Vista, California, September 21 at the age of 80. He leaves his companion of 44 years, Robert M. Clement.

He was born the son of a blacksmith in Brockley, a town outside London which he captivatingly described as Dickensian in character. He studied art, he painted and he produced theater props and costumes. He collected and sold antiques. He was a lifelong friend of Quentin Crisp, whom he first met at Goldsmith's College of Art.

In London during the 40's and 50's Noble cultivated friendships with the avant-garde, but his career only became defined fully when, during a long summer holiday on Fire Island in 1960 [This really is a fairy tale.], he made personal contacts which soon resulted in the creation of the totally new position of curator of toys at the Museum of the City of New York. [Barry just whispered something about "velvet mafia."] He retired in 1985.

Noble made us realize toys are at least as important as they are fun. Historically, "toys weren't bought by children," he observed.

Mr. Noble more than doubled the museum's toy and doll collection. He championed the emerging contemporary artists who were making dolls, with exhibitions called "Faerieland in New York" and "Flights of Fancy."

Mr. Noble was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Beloved Disciple in 1980, a Manhattan church created to reach out to the gay and lesbian community. He and Mr. Clement, who is also a bishop, were in the process of founding another branch of the church in Los Angeles.

Phyllis Magidson, curator of costumes and textiles at the City Museum, recalled Mr. Noble as "a pixilated man — as in whimsy and playfulness," and chuckled at the memory of one of his favorite lecture topics. In it, he pooh-poohed the sanctity of the pristine preservation of dolls.

The lecture's title: "Go Ahead and Re-dress It, Honey; No One Will Ever Know."

[image from Mingei International Museum]

About this Entry

Published on October 12, 2003 8:36 PM.

previous entry: greenmarket (banana peppers)

next entry: greenmarket (lima beans)