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 John Ford Clymer  (1907 - 1989)

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Lived/Active: Wyoming/Ontario / Canada      Known for: genre-west, wildlife, illustrations

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A student at the Howard Pyle School in Wilmington, Delaware, John Clymer was strongly influenced by N.C. Wyeth in illustration and became a noted painter of animals and western history.  His first illustrations were for Canadian publications, and then he illustrated for pulp magazines and novels, which led to assignments with American magazines and advertising companies.  He did a series of historic paintings about the United States Marine Corps during World War II.  His illustration career continued for over forty years and included work for Field and Stream and Saturday Evening Post for which he did about ninety covers.  Also, he illustrated the book, The Yearling.

Affiliations included the National Academy of Western Art*, Salmagundi Club* and the Society of Animal Artists*, and the Cowboy Artists of America*.  In the CAA annual exhibitions, he earned an Oil Painting Award, Gold, 1970, 1972, 1975 and Silver, 1969, 1976, 1981; Drawing Award, Gold, 1974, 1976, 1977;  and the Kieckhefer Award: Best of Show, 1975 and 1979.  In 1979, he also received a Special Award of Merit.

John Clymer was born in Ellensburg, Washington and had an early desire to live in wilderness mountain areas and pursue a career in forestry, something his parents did not understand.  He decided that if he could paint pictures, he could live anywhere he wanted, so at age 13, he enrolled in a correspondence course and then sold two drawings to Colt Firearms.

After high school graduation, he attended the Vancouver School of Fine Art and the Ontario College of Art in Port Hope, Canada.  Living in Canada, he did magazine illustration but left in 1930 to attend the Old Howard Pyle School in Wilmington, Delaware.  There he worked with N.C. Wyeth and then returned to Canada and was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art.  He also studied with Fred Varley and J.W. Beaty and traveled extensively in Canada, Alaska and the Yukon.

In 1936, Clymer moved to Westport, Connecticut and studied with Harvey Dunn in New York City as well as at the Grand Central School of Art.  He later painted with Tom Lovell and joined the Marines with him during World War II.

In 1964, he began fine art painting full time, and achieved much recognition and fame as a chronicler of the Northwestern Indians of whom he did many sketches and took photographs before doing the final work.

With his historian, he traveled the Northwest to research a history filled with noted persons such as the Nez Perce Indians, Chief Joseph, Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark, Indians, Fur Traders and Trappers.

This artist should not be confused with another John Clymer, who paints coastal scenes in an impressionist style.

Sources:
CA Cowboy Artists of America 44th Annual Exhibition, 2009, exhibition catalogue published by the Cowboy Artists of America and the Phoenix Art Museum
Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000
Artist files of the Phoenix Art Museum Library

* For references, see AskART Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


Biography from American Illustrators Gallery:
Renowned for documenting the American frontier, western history and wildlife, John Ford Clymer was born in Ellensburg, Washington.  At a very early age he was interested in art, having taken correspondence art courses from the age of thirteen.

Although unsolicited, by the time he was sixteen he sold his first two illustrations to Colt Firearms Company in Hartford, Connecticut.  He was amazed that an art director would purchase these illustrations, since he had no formal training, but his work was clearly suitable for publication.  The ingenuity and raw talent was driving the young man into illustration as a profession, and this was recognized by anyone who saw his work.

The Colt illustrations were used for advertisements, published and republished over again, to his utter delight.  After graduating from high school, Clymer moved to Canada and worked as an illustrator for billboards and as a sign painter in Vancouver, where he took art classes at night school, until he was twenty-three.  He studied at the Vancouver School of Fine Art and then later at the Ontario College of Art.

As he matured, Clymer traveled throughout the Canada to get immersed in the North-Western environment, which he loved to paint best; wildlife, mountain men, trappers, Indians, and the flora of the region, his region.  In 1927, Clymer worked on a Yukon River steamboat and visited gold mines, river trading posts, logging camps, and he created a visual encyclopedia of memories of the changing times and scenery as the landscape was altered by encroaching civilization.

In 1930, John Clymer attended the Wilmington Academy in Delaware, where he was strongly influenced by NC Wyeth and Wyeth’s students; Gayle Hoskins, Stanley Arthurs, and Douglas Duer.  In 1932, he married and a few years later moved to Westport, Connecticut to join the artist colony there, where he studied further with the famed Harvey Dunn and later at the Grand Central School of Art in NYC.

Illustrator Walt Louderback was his hero, although he was also impressed with Dean Cornwell and NC Wyeth. Clymer’s illustrations were published in the Saturday Evening Post, True, Field and Stream, and he painted calendars for twenty-eight years for the American Cyanamid Company, and advertising for the New England Life Insurance Company for more than a dozen years.

During World War II, John Clymer and illustrator Tom Lovell, joined the Marines together.  They were stationed in Washington State and spent the war painting illustrations for the Marine Corps Gazette and Leatherneck magazine.  When Clymer was discharged in 1945, he recontacted the Post Magazine and started doing covers once again, and he painted as many as ninety covers in all.

In 1966, John Clymer and his wife Doris moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to further his penchant for painting local people, indigenous wildlife and flora, in order to once again create a visual record of the changing times and losses in the environment.  John Clymer said that he always tried to take the viewer of his art “to an actual place and make him feel that he was really there.”

©2004 National Museum of American Illustration, www.americanillustration.org

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
John Clymer, renowned for his historic and artistic contribution in documenting the American Frontier, was born in Ellensburg, Washington in 1907.  Clymer was fascinated by art at an early age, and began taking art correspondence courses in art during high school.  At the age of sixteen, he sold two drawings to the Colt Firearms Company and made his debut as a professional artist.  After high school, Clymer moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he worked as an illustrator by day and took night classes at the Vancouver School of Art.  During his year in Canada, Clymer became a top illustrator for several leading Canadian magazines.

In 1932, Clymer married his high school sweetheart Doris, who would conduct the crucial historical research for his later paintings.  The Clymers moved to Westport, Connecticut, a thriving colony for young artists where Clymer learned from American illustration legends like N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) and Harvey Dunn (1884-1952). Clymer’s illustrations appeared in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and American Magazine.  During his career as an illustrator, he created over eighty covers for the Saturday Evening Post.

Like many successful illustrators, Clymer longed to devote his time to easel painting, and in 1964 committed himself to painting the wildlife and history of the American West.  That same year, New York’s Grand Central Art Galleries hosted his successful one-man wildlife art exhibition.  In 1970, Clymer moved with Doris to Teton Village, Wyoming, where he spent winters in his studio and summers traveling to research and sketch historical sites.

Clymer received many honors, including the National Academy of Western Art’s 1976 Prix de West Award and the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Rungius Medal in 1988. In 1991, his hometown established the Clymer Museum, which owns eighty of his Saturday Evening Post covers.  Upon Clymer’s death, his family generously donated the contents of his studio to the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

References: National Museum of Wildlife Art

Biography from The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction:
John Clymer was born in Ellensburg, Washington and developed an interest in art in his early years.  Although he was talented in art, it became apparent that he was not a scholar.  Long hours in the classroom bored him, and other than building a complete human skeleton of plasticene clay over a wire framework for a biology class his school record was an undistinguished one.  With youthful determination, John Clymer set about achieving his ambition.

His initial training was through a correspondence course. While still in high school, he produced a promotional illustration for the Ellensburg Rodeo and an unsolicited advertisement for Colt Firearms Company that appeared in several major magazines.  After graduation, Clymer worked and studied in Vancouver, British Columbia.  As a young illustrator, he painted signs and billboards during the day, attended art school in the evening and worked on his own freelance art and illustrations until the early hours of the morning.

In 1927, he signed on as a deck hand on a steamer on the Yukon River.  Alaska's scenery, the characters who inhabited the river posts and mining camps and the local Indians left Clymer with a wealth of memories and experiences.  In later years he was to comment that trip guided and shaped the rest of his life. In the decade following the trip to Alaska, Clymer moved to the front rank of North America's illustrators.

He held memberships in the Ontario Society of Artists and an Associate Membership in the Royal Canadian Academy.  His illustrations have appeared on the cover or interior of almost every major magazine from 1930 to 1960.

In 1964 John Clymer left behind a long and distinguished career in commercial illustration to devote all his time to rendering the subjects he loved most: the people, animals and history of the Pacific Northwest.  What followed was an extraordinary series of paintings depicting the history of that region in meticulous detail, a superb visual record which won him every major award in the field of western Art.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
John Clymer was born in Ellensburg, Washington, in 1907. Throughout his life, Mr. Clymer, when not living in the Northwest, would spend several months traveling the area.  Along with trips into Alaska and Canada the American Northwest provided the background and subject matter for the big game and wildlife paintings that first brought fine arts recognition to Mr. Clymer.

He studied in Canada at the Vancouver School of Art and at the Ontario College of Art.  In addition he studied in the United States at the Grand Central School of Art, New York City and at the Wilmington Academy in Delaware.  Also, Clymer was very active in commercial art and illustration – being a very regular cover artist for the Saturday Evening Post for many years.

The artist’s personal interest in the history of the Northwest, Northern Plains Indians, fur trappers, etc. evolved into their use as subject matter for his paintings.  He also followed the famed Oregon Trail from Nebraska to the Pacific Coast, the Lewis and Clark Trail and the Nez Perce Trail towards Canada.  His knowledge of this region enabled him to place everyday happenings and events in their authentic settings.  He was considered one of the most "realistic" painters of his time, depicting the struggles and triumphs of the early pioneers

Mr. Clymer was a member of the Cowboy Artists of America and was honored by them with a First Prize in oils at the 1970 and 1972 Annual Exhibitions.  He was also a member of the Salmagundi Club, NYC; Society of Animal Artists; Hudson Valley Art Association the Ontario Society of Artists and the Grand Central Galleries.

John Clymer’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody, Wyoming where he has three heroic size painting commissioned by the Winchester Rifle Company.


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