William Brymner, R.C.A.

Born in Greenock, Scotland, on December 14, 1855, William Brymner was the son of Douglas Brymner (who became the first Dominion archivist, in 1872) and of Jean Thomson. In 1917, Brymner married Mary Caroline Massey. He was educated in Richmond, Quebec, and at the Conseil des arts et manufactures in Montreal. He traveled to Paris to study architecture. Once there, he turned to painting instead, and studied at the Académie Julian under the grand masters.

He returned to Canada and began painting in the environs of Baie St. Paul as of 1884. In 1886, he became director of art classes at the Art Association of Montreal. His students included Clarence Gagnon, Edwin Holgate and William Clapp. Brymner was well regarded by his students. Indeed, A.Y. Jackson remarked of Brymner that, “Of all the artists I knew when I was a student, he was the one I admired most.” Brymner also worked with J.W. Morrice and Maurice Cullen, and urged his students to come to paint in Charlevoix.

Received as a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (R.C.A.) in 1886 (of which he was subsequently president in 1909 and 1918), Brymner was recognized several times both at home and abroad. Considered Canada’s “first great art teacher”, he was appreciated for his high regard for academic training and his general open-mindedness. For the 1989 Christmas season, Canada Post issued a stamp featuring a reproduction of one of Brymner’s works, “Le Champ-de-Mars en hiver.” He died on June 18, 1925 in Wallasey, England.

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