Nathalie Novi is of Italian origin but lives in France. Her early childhood took place in Constantine, Algeria where she was surrounded by her sisters and lots of books. It was at the age of nine that she decided to be a painter.
In 1987, she graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris where she exhibist her pastels and engravings. She also has exhibited in other cities around France and countries around Europe. Her work on the timeless theme of childhood brings her naturally to children’s books and characters and books from her childhood. She was awarded a CNL creation grant, which allowed her to work on her project about Jane Austen’s novels – Le musée imaginaire de Jane Austen – which will be published by Albin Michel Jeunesse on November 2, 2017. The premise of the book is as follows (text from Amazon France loosely translated by me).
Once upon a time in a magical place called Pemberley, an imaginary museum dedicated to Jane Austen opens its doors for the first time … Visitors from different countries and times, flock to the first room where they are greeted by Elisabeth Bennett, the heroine of the novel Pride and Prejudice. She will guide them through the museum pieces, one for each novel: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
The short texts of Fabrice Colin allow a sensitive immersion in the literary world of Jane Austen. The richly illustrated pages alternate different approaches to his work: iconic key scenes of novels (ballroom, wedding, meetings), scenes of British society at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, romantic landscapes, portrait galleries on upholstered backgrounds. Throughout her allegorical compositions, Nathalie Novi mixes techniques – acrylic painting on cardboard, ink wash, sketch with pen on old paper – to deliver a beautiful and unique work.
I asked Nathalie to tell us about this project and her story with Jane Austen. We all have a story, how everything started. I think nobody forgets the first time they read Pride and Prejudice, for example. Being an illustrator since she was so young I wanted to know how this whole project started and here she shares this with us in her own words:
“The first time I read a Jane Austen novel , I had the feeling that I had come from the same family of her heroins. I have four sisters, and , except the search of husbands(!) of course, it was quite similar : many dreams, ideas, and lots of laughter… each of us had her own identity, we loved books very much and we created stories all together. Once I discovered the rest of Jane Austen novels, it was an evident, I was one of her characters! As I’m a painter, I dreamed of honoring her with my art, and now it s done! With my “Imaginary Museum of Jane Austen” I create a place (in Pemberley) where we can walk through her six principals novels. I create a mixed between a contemporary public, literary celebrities (like Virginia Woolf, Emma Thompson, and also Queen Elisabeth II), her heroes, the landscapes, the houses which are so important and even some surrealistic objects. The writer, Fabrice Colin and I tried to highlight her wit and humor and her marvelous way of conveying feelings. Her stories are not very descriptive which is a wonderful thing for a painter because everything can be imagined.
I have made about 150 drawings and paintings for this book. It is intended for everybody, teenagers and adults, of course, Jane Austen lovers, but also those who have not yet read her novels… because Jane Austen is universal. Thank you so much! This book is published in French for the moment but we hope to find an English publisher soon.”
The book can be pre-order on Amazon France. More details on the link below:
Nathalie Novi at Médiathèque Jean Moulin – a library in Margny-lès-Compiègne, France, with her book “Le musée imaginaire de Jane Austen published by Albin Michel Jeunesse, France.
In 2008, Philippe Thomine made a 26-minute documentary film about her work: “Nathalie Novi, on the other side of the mirror” (see link below). The short movie is in French but you can see a little bit of her world and share her passion.