John Goodwin Lyman
(1886 - 1967)
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John Lyman Biography
(1886 - 1967)
John Lyman played a key role in the development of modern art in Canada, not only as an artist, but also as a theorist, professor and as the founder in 1939 of the Contemporary Arts Society. Apart from trips to Canada in 1913 and 1927, Lyman spent the years 1907-31 in Europe. He attended the Academie Julian in Paris and met the Canadian artist James Wilson Morrice. In 1909, he attended the Academie Matisse. The relationships with both Morrice and Matisse were crucial to John Lyman’s art: devotion to a pure art of colour, line, and form. Lyman returned to Montreal permanently in September 1931 and worked on improving the artistic conditions in Canada. From 1936 to 1940, he was an author for the monthly art column in “The Montrealer”, where he commented on the Canadian art scene, promoted international trends and offered intelligent writing on art. He co-founded the short-lived Atelier and introduced the students to French art practices. He was opposed to what he felt to be the xenophobic nationalism of Canadian art. To those who feared the taint of foreign art, Lyman replied: “The talk of the Canadian scene has gone sour. The real Canadian scene is in the consciousness of Canadian painters, whatever the object of their thought” (The Montrealer, 1 February, 1938). In 1939, Lyman established the Contemporary Arts Society in Montreal and, in 1949, he became a professor at McGill University and was appointed director of the Fine Arts Department.