Gustavo Novoa was born in 1941 in Santiago, Chile. Novoa made his debut as an artist in the early ’60’s selling watercolors and works in crayon in the streets of Paris, principally Montmartre. His first one-man show was sponsored by the Chilean Ambassador at the Maison de L’Amerique Latine 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. Honore and the Salon de la Jeune Peninture completed his Parisian background but, by 1965, he had become an adoptive “New Yorker.” He admits to having been “lured like many others by the American Dream on one hand and such movies as ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on the other.”
A successful partnership with Guy Burgos and later Lady Sarah Spencer 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 Studart Preston reviewed saying, “What Novoa seeks to discover in his often fanciful landscapes and still-lifes is their identity, that special something that makes them unique.” By the late sixties however Novoa’s subject had changed into those gentle jungle denizens that were to be his trademark for the next 15 years.
“Bonds with reality are very hard to shake once you establish them.” With this premise in mind Novoa constructed, without the help of the real jungle or zoos, a new Paradise of mystical serenity. The environment he created exceeded the limitations of Time and Space. Panthers, lions, zebras, tigers, elephants, peacocks, and rhinos, deprived of their ferocity, seemed to observe the observer with wise and amused tolerance.
Novoa’s one-man shoes of the early 70’s in New York, Paris, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills established him as a champion of ecology and wild-life preservation. His animals were primitive and painted in lush and colorful backgrounds. The publication, in 1977, of his book, “Jungle Fables,” for which he both 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.
By 1981, Novoa’s paintings had changed again: 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 surrealist of Novoa’s shows.