Du Noyer, George Victor (1817–69), antiquarian, geologist, and artist, was probably born in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, the eldest son of Louis Victor du Noyer, a teacher of French and music, and his wife, Margaret du Bédat, who ran a school for young ladies. Both parents were of Huguenot descent. Du Noyer attended the Rev. William Jones's school in Dublin as well as being given drawing lessons, from the age of about seven, by George Petrie (qv). Petrie's artistic influence and his antiquarian interests were to be a significant feature of du Noyer's oeuvre. His earliest dated work, a satirical depiction of Donnybrook fair (1830), was lithographed posthumously.
Probably thanks to Petrie's influence or patronage, du Noyer joined him in 1834 in the civilian branch of the ordnance survey; he was appointed as a topographical draughtsman. The ordnance survey set out to record statistics, antiquities, geology, archaeology and natural history for each county and to publish the results as a memoir. A diary kept by du Noyer in 1839 indicates that he worked hard, six days a week and sometimes in very inclement conditions, recording geological features as well as drawing ground plans of forts, painting panoramic views of hills and recording archaeological sites. In Antrim in 1836–7 he collected and drew roses and fungi native to the area. Though he lacked scientific training, his reputation as a botanical artist is secure, based on his outstanding plant paintings in the archives of the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin. The 1837 report Ordnance survey of the county of Londonderry, memoir of the city and north western liberties of Londonderry, parish of Templemore included seven plates, all of which were du Noyer's. The 1843 Report on the geology of the county of Londonderry and parts of Tyrone and Fermanagh included thirty-eight plates, among them many illustrations of fossils, all by du Noyer. A Carboniferous bivalve, Lucina du noyeri, and a fossil plant, Sequoia du noyeri, were named in his honour.
From 1842, when he was made redundant, until 1844, du Noyer failed to find permanent employment and appears to have supported himself by accepting freelance commissions in Dublin. His adaptability can be gauged from the titles of two publications he illustrated: Hall's Ireland, its scenery, character etc. (1841–3) and McCoy's Synopsis of the characters of the Carboniferous limestone fossils of Ireland (1844). A love for the minutiae of life is contained within his commonplace books, which he kept from 1837 to 1866 and which are in the library of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Subjects included rusticated gates, plants, the different stages of growing a beard, animals, people, boats, notes on giving a lecture and self-portraits. Du Noyer depicts himself wearing a straw hat, blue-checked suit and gaiters. From 1841 to 1863 he exhibited a total of forty-eight paintings, many of which were topographical, at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin. Perhaps his best artistic work is Killiney Head looking towards Bray, Co. Wicklow (1866, private collection). A period of full-time employment as fellow and tutor in fine art in the College of Saint Columba, Stackallan House, near Navan, Co. Meath (March 1844–December 1845) led to a number of sketches of the house, its occupants and the surrounding countryside. He travelled in England in August and September 1845, all the time making drawings which were later to appear in Juke's Popular physical geology (1853).
The Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland was formed in 1845 and two years later du Noyer joined its ranks to record geological sections exposed as a result of railway construction. Initially this was in a temporary capacity, but he was to remain employed by the geological survey until his death. In May 1867 he became a district surveyor. Employing the six-inch maps produced earlier by the ordnance survey, he surveyed and mapped the geological features of counties Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Kerry with such accuracy that his maps and descriptions are still of use. Seventeen of the Memoirs of the survey include his contributions and his name appears on forty-two of the 113 maps. Drawings of items which caught his eye, as well as marginal notes about geology, are scattered over the maps.
He joined the Natural History Society of Ireland in 1841, was elected to its council in 1849 and became an associate in 1857. He also became a member of the Dublin University Zoological and Botanical Association in 1858, as well as a member of the Geological Society of Dublin in 1843. At the latter he presented a paper ‘On geology as applicable to the delineation of nature by the artist’, on 13 December 1843. Later he joined the freemasons (1851) and the RSAI (1856). The RSAI holds a large collection of his drawings (purchased after his death from his widow). In August 1857 he became MRIA and was elected an honorary life member in 1863 in recognition of his gift to the academy of several volumes of drawings of Irish interest, organised by county.
Du Noyer married Frances Adélaide du Bédat on 4 January 1858, daughter of William du Bédat, of the transfer officer of the Bank of Ireland, and Mary Allée. She was probably a relative, perhaps a cousin; they had five children. Following his marriage, and fatherhood, he tried to spend the winters in Dublin. There he gave occasional lectures and worked up paintings begun in the field in the summer months, as well as continuing his correspondence with many of the important geologists of the period.
Papers by du Noyer appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, the Journal of the Geological Society of Dublin and The Irish Builder as well as in a number of other periodicals. He was the first to discover and record (in 1856) the ancient dry stone ‘bee-hive’ huts on the Dingle peninsula, publishing his findings in March 1858. In 1867 he was moved by the geological survey to Antrim whence he superintended the geological survey of the north of Ireland. His compulsion to illustrate geological and archaeological subjects resulted in the creation of valuable historical records of features and archaeological sites which have since been destroyed or altered. Even at the time, du Noyer was aware of the historical importance of his work and recognised the urgency of recording the changing landscape. He noted in a letter that destruction of ancient sites was happening daily. His death, caused by scarlet fever, took place on 3 January 1869, a day after that of his daughter Fanny from the same disease. They were buried at the parish church of All Saints in Antrim town on the same day, 4 January 1869. His death left his wife and family in severe financial difficulty and an unsuccessful petition for a civil-list pension was sent to the prime minister. It was signed by such notable people as the vice-president of the RIA, the lord mayor of Dublin, the president of St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and the provost of TCD, as well as William Stokes (qv) and Sir William Wilde (qv).