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Art General

Morrice and Lyman In the Company of Matisse

by (author) Francois Gagnon, Michele Grandbois & John O'Brian

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Jul 2014
General, Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2014
    List Price

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James Wilson Morrice (1869-1954) was an important Canadian Impressionist painter working in Canada, France and North Africa. American-born John Lyman (1886-1967) was a Canadian Modernist artist who spent most of his lengthy career in Montreal. Early in their artistic lives, the two met in Paris where they attended the Academie Julian.

Both artists crossed paths with master French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) in different ways and at different times over their careers, and he became a formidable influence. Their encounters in France and North Africa, occurring over the early decades of the 20th century, were decisive for their respective art, and the development of Canadian modernist art. A century later, Morrice, Lyman and Matisse's work is still influential.

In the fall of 2014, Morrice, Lyman and Matisse are the subjects of a large exhibition, Morrice and Lyman: In the Company of Matisse to be held at the Musee National des Beaux-arts du Quebec, and at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, two of Canada's most important art institutions and visitor destinations.

Morrice and Lyman: In the Company of Matisse is a beautiful companion to the exhibition that is expected to be attract thousands of visitors. Illustrated essays by noted art historians, interspersed with wide-ranging portfolios of work by the artists, compare and contrast the artists' individual and common artistic outlooks and output. The book's 150 full-color reproductions by all three painters and archival photographs show Morrice's and Lyman's personal quest for the light, color, balance and serenity permeating the art of revolutionary painters such as Matisse. The light shines through every painting.


About the authors

Essays by Francois Gagnon, Michele Grandbois and John O'Brian

Francois Gagnon's profile page

Michele Grandbois' profile page

John O'Brian teraches Art History at the University of British Columbia. He is author of David Milne and the Modern Tradition of Painting: The Flat Side of the Landscape and Degas to Matisse: The Maurice Wetheim Collection, and editor of Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism.

John O'Brian's profile page

Editorial Reviews

In the early 1900s, Canadian artists James Morrice and John Lyman experienced rejection by critics. Both left Canada for Paris, met Henri Matisse, and found freedom to develop their art. At the time, the artists in Canada's Group of Seven were more accepted in Canada, painting scenes of Canada's natural world... Morrice and Lyman, influenced by their international travel, produced a new kind of art. The unique light, people, and seascapes found in travels beyond Paris to North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia--the "land of the setting sun"), Cuba, and Bermuda provided inspiration tor international subjects and beautiful colors. This book accompanies a 2014 exhibit at the Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec and brings together primary sources that, for the first time, document the connections Matisse, Morrice, and Lyman had with one another... Summing up: Highly Recommended. All readership levels.


Henri Matisse, considered one of the founding fathers of Modern Art, left a lasting impression on the Canadian art world. Through his connection to two Canadian painters, James Wilson Morrice and John Lyman, Matisse inspired a love of light in their work and through them into our art history. In early days of the 1900's the centre of culture and art was Paris. For two young painters looking to broaden their outlook and embrace modern art this was the place to be. It was there they first encountered Matisse and from those meetings and their time in the City of Light that Morrice and Lyman both sought new directions for their work. Their individual journeys and the times they later spent with Matisse in various locations; Morocco, Barbados and Trinidad, are well chronicled in a series of essays. Supporting these writings are several portfolios that allow for some comparisons between the three painters. Matisse always championed individual authenticity in a painter's work, which Morrice and Lyman maintained but there is no denying the influence Matisse had on the younger artists.

North Shore News

The exhibition (Morrice and Lyman in the Company of Matisse) originated in Quebec City, curated by Michele Grandbois at the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec. At the McMichael, Katerina Atanassova has provided another level of curatorial ability, enlarging the content and expertly staging it. It's a large, ambitious show, filling five good-sized galleries with 165 works of art and some archival material, such as Morrice's sketchbooks. The paintings are the focus but this is essentially a curator's exhibition, a way of re-ordering art history, editing the past to uncover fresh meaning. In the 21st century we are looking at art that was conceived in the 19th and persisted through half of the 20th. We are asked to see these images freshly, compare the three artists and consider how they relate to each other. In all ways, particularly range and quality, this approach succeeds.... Firefly Books has published a beautiful catalogue, with essays by six scholars, supported by the Prakash Foundation; Ash Prakash himself is a notable Morrice collector.

National Post

Other titles by John O'Brian