John Lyman

Canadian painter, founder of the Contemporary Art Society of Montreal

John Lyman

John Lyman was born in 1886 in Maine, United States. He moved to Montreal with his family and studied at McGill University for a few years before dropping out to pursue artistic studies in Paris and London. He furthered his knowledge at the Académie Julian in Paris and met the Canadian artist James Wilson Morrice during his early years in Paris. In 1909, he continued his studies at the Académie Matisse, which had a significant impact on his art.

In 1913, Lyman exhibited his art for the first time at the Art Association of Montreal, which caused a scandal. He then moved to Paris, where he lived until 1931. During this time, he maintained friendly relationships with many painters such as James Wilson Morrice, Othon Friesz, Foujita, Zadkine, Matthias, Picabia, and the Perret brothers, as well as writers such as James Joyce, Jules Romain, Charles Vildrac, and Gertrude Stein. Lyman returned to Montreal in 1931 and wrote a monthly art column in The Montrealer from 1936 to 1940. He founded the Atelier and co-founded the Contemporary Art Society in Montreal in 1939. Lyman was a strong advocate of international trends and disagreed with the xenophobic nationalism of Canadian art. He believed that Canadian artists were aware of their artistic milieu and that foreign art could enrich Canadian art.

In 1949, Lyman joined the Faculty of Fine Arts at McGill University as an art instructor and became its president in 1958. John Lyman played a vital role in the development of modern art in Canada, not only as an artist but also as a theorist, teacher, and founder of the Contemporary Art Society. He passed away in Barbados in 1967.

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