William Brymner by Edmond Dyonnet
A painter, draughtsman, illustrator, muralist, William Brymner (1855-1925) is one of the many Canadian artists who were practising landscape painting around the turn of the 20th century.
Born in Greenock, in Scotland in 1855, he arrived in Melbourne, Canada East in 1857. He studied at the Council of Arts and Manufactures in Montreal in 1968-69 and apprenticed with an architect in Montreal in 1970. Then, Brymner was employed by the office of the chief architect of the departement of Public Works in Ottawa in 1873-78.
In 1876, he left Montreal to study art the Académie Julian in Paris. He returned to Canada in 1886 for the next 35 years.
Although he also produced genre scenes, portraits and a few nudes, his colleague and friend Edmond Dyonnet described him in his memoirs as a “landscape painter”. He was also one of the most influential art teachers in Canada. His openness to new movements and propensity to experiment informed his painting and his pedagogy. He taught at the Ottawa Art School Director of the Art Association of Montreal school from 1886 to 1921, Brymner taught such notable modern artists as Clarence Gagnon, A.Y. Jackson, Prudence Heward, Adrien Hébert, Edwin Holgate, Emily Coonan, H. Mabel May, Lilias Torrance Newton, Sarah Robertson and Marian Dale Scott. As an active member of the Royal Canadian academy of Arts, he counted amongst his peers Maurice Cullen, Robert Harris, James Wilson Morrice, George A. Reid, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté and Horatio Walker.
He travelled a lot in all Europe and in western Canada. Brymner died in Wallasey in England in 1925.
Brymner’s landscape oeuvre includes some view of Europe, Western Canada and the Maritimes, but the majority are scenes of Quebec that show a propensity for experimenting with different techniques, viewpoints, and weather conditions.
Brymner’s works also reflect an emancipation from strict academicism in favour of a naturalistic approach based on the observation of nature and a knowledge of European and Canadian landscape art.
Source: Canadian Art, volume one/A-F, Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1988 and Alicia Boutilier et Paul Maréchal, William Brymner, artist, teacher, colleague, Agnes Ethererington Art Center, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, 2010; Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly books, 2000