William Brymner

“There are other kinds of beauty besides that of a pretty face or form, or the brightness of a sunset. The beauty of the arrangement of spots of colour and light and shade, or even of lines, are not often thought of.” (1897)

William Brymner was an influential art teacher and painter of figures and landscapes. He painted directly from nature, in the style of the French Barbizon school. Always experimenting with different techniques and viewpoints, he often chose Canadian subjects, such as rural Quebec. 

Brymner studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. He settled in Montreal in 1886, where he taught for thirty-five years at the Art Association of Montreal. Among his students were painters A.Y. Jackson and Clarence Gagnon. Brymner strove to create spaces where artists of all disciplines could gather and exchange ideas. He served as president of the Royal Canadian Academy for nine years. He also worked with the Canadian Art Club, the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal, and the Arts Club of Montreal. He travelled frequently through Europe and Quebec’s Eastern Townships, setting up a studio in Saint-Eustache with fellow artist Maurice Cullen.

A Wreath of Flowers, 1884 was Brymner’s diploma piece for the RCA. Painted at Runswick Bay, the work demonstrates his narrative interests and his ability to paint figures and landscape. In 1892, Canadian Pacific Railway commissioned Brymner to produce a series of paintings promoting the scenic views of the Canadian West. He won a gold medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, and silver at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. In 1916, Brymner was made a companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. 

Photography: M.O. Hammond Collection, National Gallery of Canada Archives

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