ZIONSVILLE — Nancy Noel, the internationally known artist who called Zionsville home, has died. She was 74.
Here is a look at Noel's life as presented in her obituary by ARN Funeral and Cremation Services.
Born to Jerome Noel and Louise Hanley, Nancy was raised in a large and prominent Indianapolis family. Her grandfather was William Hanley, an early top executive at Eli Lilly, and a gifted engineer who designed and patented innovative production advancements of the gelcap.
After attending St. Mary's of Notre Dame and graduating with an art degree from Mount St. Joseph University, Nancy pursued an art career to the chagrin of her parents. She became well known locally, sketching portraits at the Penrod Arts Fair for $35 dollars apiece and opening the Noel Gallery in Broad Ripple, where she sold other artists' work.
It soon became a status symbol to have a Noel portrait of your child above the fireplace. Nancy began working in oil paints and continued to create portraits of animals and children. By the 1980s, Nancy was publishing prints, which became so popular with art distributors that she decided to venture into the distribution business herself. She was among the very first artists to buy ads in leading lifestyle magazines of the day, such as Town & Country and Country Living magazines.
She went by the name "N.A. Noel" during an era in which female artists were not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. By the 1990s, Nancy had become recognized internationally for her paintings of animals, Amish Life, Angels, and African peoples, among other subjects.
Nancy was known for her enormous creative energy, often working in the middle of the night and painting on several canvases in the same day. Throughout her career, Nancy created over 1,000 original works, sold millions of prints, published eight books, and established Noel Studio, a brand that rigorously protects the value and authenticity of Nancy's reproductions for collectors.
Her artwork hangs in the homes of world leaders and celebrities and has been used to commemorate major events and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Noel Studio open houses, where Nancy signed prints for collectors, would often draw thousands of people and long lines.
In the 1970s, Nancy purchased a piece of property in Zionsville, where she kept her beloved horse, El Kadere. After marrying Gerald Kosene, they built a house and additional barns on the property and called it Llandfair Farm. Over the following decades, "Llandfair" became home to dozens of animals, from horses and llamas, to raccoons and pigs, and many adopted others. As a longtime champion of animals and children, Nancy brought them together by creating animal therapy programs for the disabled. In Africa, where Nancy traveled extensively, she became active in rescuing the endangered rhino population, and later established the N.A. Noel pre-school in southern Kenya.
Besides painting and riding horses, Nancy loved spending her days at Llandfair, often followed around by a motley group of animals. While she was raised Catholic, Nancy did not consider herself "religious." Spirituality became a more dominant subject in her later work. An ethereal, even mystical, expression came through in her paintings. She was drawn to the mystery of unseen powers, the presence of guiding spirits, and the conflict between love and fear.
Nancy is survived by her two sons, Alexander Noel-Kosene (Inés Chouciño Storani) and Michael Noel-Kosene (Julie Mahomed); her siblings, Irma Rand (Jim), Louise Malachowski (Bob), Carol Noel (David Lohman), Bill Noel (Jane), and sister-in-law, Michele Noel (brother, Jerome Noel-predeceased); her grandchildren, Hugo Chouciño-Kosene and Miriam Anne Kosene; her fiancé, George Mast; her longtime friend, Kathy Pierle; and the many animals of Llandfair Farm.
Services will be held privately, but a retrospective exhibition of Noel's work will be planned for a later date.