John Goodwin LymanJohn Goodwin Lyman, painter, author, teacher (b at Biddeford, Maine 29 Sept 1886; d in Barbados, West Indies 26 May 1967). Apart from trips to Canada in 1913 and 1927, he spent the years 1907-31 in Europe. He attended several art schools there but, while these provided him with basic technical competence, the Académie Matisse (1910) exercised a deep influence on his art and thinking. Upon his return to Canada, his "gentlemanly" life-style gave way to a commitment to improve artistic conditions.
As a critic (the Montrealer, 1936-42) he showed an awareness of art's elusive quality and rather than dictate to people tried to help them respond to art. He saw the GROUP OF SEVEN as a reactionary institution standing in the way of progress, and was a key figure emphasizing internationalism in Québec. Though he often seemed to express formalist views about art, he never insisted on values of the medium alone, admitting the interplay of raw material and subjective states. Like Matisse, he emphasized the role of instinct and the expression of feelings.
As an organizer (Eastern Group of Painters, CONTEMPORARY ARTS SOCIETY) Lyman sought to improve exhibiting conditions for artists. Here, however, as in his teaching (Atelier, McGill), he was careful not to become dogmatic. Lyman the artist is a controversial figure. Though many dismiss his role as a painter, his works reflect advanced formal concerns and a personal vision. Neither anecdotal nor picturesque, and simplified in form, they state the everlasting quality of things.