Biography of John LYMAN

John Lyman, self-portrait

                                                          

BIOGRAPHY

Lyman’s
 drawing
 often concentrated
 on
 the
 foundations, 
thus
 precisely 
documenting
 the
 preparatory
 works
 of
 some
 of
 his
 completed
 oil
 paintings.
The
 precision 
of
 his
 drawing
 stems
 from
 his 
love
 of
 architecture,
 which 
he 
studied
 in
1 908,
 albeit
 to 
please 
and 
reassure 
his 
father.
The
influence 
of 
photography 
can 
also
 be
 seen 
in 
his 
sketches.
 In 1916, 
Lyman 
worked 
with
 photographers
 for
 his
 contract
 cataloguing, 
with
 illustrations,
 the
 architectural
 patrimony
 of
 Bermuda.
 His
 charcoal
 and
 soft 
pencil
 sketches 
illustrate 
the 
same
 dynamic 
tendency 
to 
render blocks
of 
black,
white 
and 
grey 
and 
to
 distribute 
and 
multiply 
the
 points 
of 
view,
 variations 
of
 which
 were
 sometimes
 quite
 similar.


In
 1910,
 Lyman
 describes
 in
 his
 correspondence
 the
 emotion
 he
 felt
 during
 his
 visit
 to
 Matisse’s
 studio 
in 
Issy‐les‐Moulineaux. The 
sensation 
that
he 
felt 
induced 
him 
to 
sign 
up 
for 
Matisse’s 
classes.


After
 a
 scandalous
 first
 exhibition
 in
 1913
 at
 the
 Montreal
 Musée
 des
 beaux‐arts, 
Lyman
 adopted
 Paris
 as
 his
 home
 base.
 He
 joined
 the
 Red
 Cross
 during
 the
 Great 
War,
 following
 his
 training
 with
 the
 Canadian
 army.
 In
 Paris,
 between
 1913
 and
 1931,
 he
 called
 friend
 the
 likes
 of
 James
 Wilson
 Morrice,
 Orthon
 Friesz,
 Foujita, 
Zadkine,
 Matthias,
 Picabia,
 the
 Perret
 brothers
 and
 James
 Joyce,
 Jules
 Romain,
 Charles 
Vildrac
 and
Gertrude
 Stein
 amongst 
the 
writers.


His 
return 
to
 Montreal
 marked 
the 
beginnings 
of
 a
 new
 era 
as
 contrary 
to 
the 
Group 
of
 Seven
 Lyman
 advocated
 internationalism.
 He
 thus
 declared
 opposition
 to
 “the 
regionalists
 who
 only
 produced
 banal
 clichés”.
 As
 an
 art
 critic
 and
  director
 of
exhibitions
 at
 the
 head
 of
 the
 Société
 d’Art
 Contemporain,
 this
 grand
 agent
 of
 the modernist
 ideas
 of
 the
 École
 de
 Paris
 attempted
 to
 “deprovincialize”
 Quebec
 and 
Canadian 
art.


Through 
his
 drawing 
Lyman 
found
 and
 chose 
the 
facets 
to 
highlight 
in
 his
 painting.
 Scrutinizer
 or 
intellect, 
he 
also 
used
 drawing 
as 
a 
form
 of
expression 
in 
its 
own 
right. 
Rarely
 dated,
his 
sketches 
sometimes
 reuse 
the 
same 
themes
 or 
subjects,
 repeating 
the
 same
 motifs
 that
 appeared
 through
 the
 years
 alongside
 certain
 pre‐painting
drawings,
 annotated
 occasionally 
with 
written 
reminders 
of
 colours.
 All 
throughout 
his 
lifetime,
Lyman 
thus
 drew
 on 
ideas 
and 
solutions 
for
 the
 way 
in
 which 
to 
portray 
the
 live
 model
 or
 the
 bathers
 theme.
 He
 blends
 the
 same
 pose
 with
 different
 contexts,
 using
 some
 of
 his
 discoveries
 in 
several
 paintings, 
sometimes
 executed 
at
 an 
interval
 of
 several
 decades. 
Drawing 
for 
him
 was
a
 means 
to
 explore
 painting.


Similarly 
to 
Matisse’s 
work, 
Lyman’s
 drawings
 depicted
 the
 outlines 
as
 much 
as 
the
 space
 in
 between.
 The
 disposition
 made
 use
 of
 the
 four
 sides
 of
 the
 sheet
 of
 paper
 with 
the 
volume 
coming
 to
 the 
forefront.
The 
white 
of 
the 
sheet
 stands
 out,
 playing 
an
 active 
role 
in 
th e
composition.
 A
complex 
relationship 
exists 
between 
the 
forms, 
outlines
 and
 spaces.
 This
 equilibrium
 emits
 a
 sense
 of
 calm
 and
 renewal.
 Matisse and
 Morrice?
Cezanne?
 Maybe
 Whistler?
 Certain 
critics 
have 
discerned 
the 
influence
 of 
these 
artists
 in 
Lyman’s 
drawings
 and
 paintings,
 or
 a
 certain
 similarity. 
It 
is 
in 
fact
 demonstrating
 the
 connection
 to
 a
 same
 light,
 a
 common
 spirit
 or
 way
 of
 thinking.
“A 
painter
 only 
has
 one 
problem”,
 writes
Lyman
 in
 1946, 
“to 
be 
himself”.


 

SUBJECT / THEMES

It 
has 
been 
said
 that 
Lyman 
was 
the 
painter 
of 
intimacy.


Through 
drawing, 
John 
Lyman 
takes 
us 
on 
a
 journey 
into 
the 
heart
 of
 this 
“gentleman 
painter’s”
attachment
 to
 the 
visible
 world 
where,
 as
 in
 front
 of
 the
 Saint‐Jean‐de‐Luz
 beaches
 and
 the
 dunes
 at
 Cape
 Cod,
 he
was
 able
 to
 be
 completely
 happy.


Contemporary
 to
 several
 other
 similar
 drawings
 previously
 exhibited
 and
 dating
from
 1921,
 the
 sketches
 of
 odalisques,
 previously
 unpublished,
 evoke
 the
 long 
sojourns 
spent 
by 
the 
Lyman 
couple 
in 
Hammamet,
 Tunisia, 
as 
of 
1919.
 This 
theme 
Lyman 
would 
revive 
in 
Paris
 at 
the 
end 
of
 the
1920s.
 All
 throughout 
that 
decade 
he
 drew 
sensual
 females 
in
 the
 nude, 
striking 
risqué 
poses 
and
 an 
unconventional
 posture
 of
 
a young 
man,
thrusting 
his
 hips 
to
 the
 side. Lyman
 often
 called
 upon
 athletes
 or
 fairground
 entertainers
 for
 his
 drawings 
of 
the 
1920s.
 This 
bold
work 
of 
art 
stands
out 
through 
the
 artist’s 
use 
of
 a 
style 
of
 an alytical
 cubism 
typical 
of 
the 
École
 de 
Paris
 of 
that 
period.


Through
 his
 characteristic
 use
 of
 pastel
 and
 pearly
 colours,
 both
 very
 brilliant
 but 
never
 overly 
intensified,
 one 
sketch 
focuses 
on
 a 
southern
landscape
 of 
the 
aligned 
trunks
 of
 a
 pine
 forest
 in
 Cagnes‐sur‐Mer.
 It
 was
 here,
 in
 1922,
 that
 Lyman
 bought 
the
 Villa
 Blanca.
 There,
 as
 in
 the
 West
 Indies
 and
 Tunisia,
 he
 experienced
 the
 dazzling 
light 
of 
the 
South.
 Also, The
 sailing
 boats
 in
 the
 background
 were
 a
 subject
 matter
 that
 arose
 several
 times
 in
 both
 sketches
 and
 paintings.


 

TECHNIQUE / MEDIUM

Only “half‐fauvist” however, as his work is “without the explosive tones”, as Gilles Corbeil writes. The drawings evoke both reserve and sensuality. Whilst celebrating a form of eroticism as a natural phenomenon, the bodies set themselves free.

Peppered 
with
 analytical
 cubism
 but
 also
 with
 a
 “classical”
 approach,
 linked
 to
 the
 figurative 
renewal 
of 
the
1930s, 
here 
showing
 him 
to 
be 
ahead
of 
his 
time, 
Lyman’s 
universe,
 which
 although
 so
 personal
 also
 bears
 the
 influence
 of
 the
 hedonism
 of
 French
painting
 between
 the
 World
 Wars.


Timeless
 landscapes
 form
 a
contrast
 with
 more
 contemporary
 landmarks
 linked
 to
the
 effects
 of
 industrialisation
 or
 urbanisation.
 Following
 the
 modernist
 tenet, 
Lyman
 puts 
emphasis 
on 
the 
composition 
elements, 
so
regimented
 in 
his
 work, 
and 
on 
the
 primacy
 of
 colour 
and
 the 
pictorial
language
 with
 detriment 
to
 any
 message 
that
 could
 be
 deemed
 “literary”.
 However,
 without
 openly
 admitting
 it,
 Lyman 
sought 
to 
translate 
the
secrets 
of 
a 
more 
internal 
reality 
where 
we 
can 
sense 
a 
little 
of
 what 
he 
perceived 
to 
be 
his 
existence
 and 
relationship 
to
 the 
world. 
In 
this
 sense,
his
 art
 is
 not
 without
 a
 subtext
 and
 an
 element
 of
 aloofness.
 “A
 living
 paradox”,
 Lyman
 remains
 an
 enigma
 to
 a
 certain
 extent.


 

EXHIBITIONS

“Sketches from 1910, 20 & 30”, Galerie Valentin, May 2012

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The art critics who have best interpreted his work have said this each in their own way: Paul Dumas; Gilles Corbeil; Guy Viau and event the Montreal painter Philip Surrey who wrote several articles about him, or nearer to us Normand Thériault; Louise Dompierre and Louise Déry.

 

From a text by René Viau for the Valentin Gallery

 




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