William Brymner (1855–1925) was a renowned painter during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who regularly exhibited his work in Canada and internationally. Today he is most known for his influence as an art teacher with the Art Association of Montreal. His students include some of Canada’s leading modern artists, such as Prudence Heward (1896–1947) and Edwin Holgate (1892–1977). In 1979 Janet Braide curated a retrospective exhibition of Brymner’s work and published a catalogue, William Brymner, 1855–1925: A Retrospective, that has proven fundamental for subsequent research and highlighted the breadth of his work as an artist and his professional activities. Recent research into Brymner’s encounters with Indigenous people has broadened our knowledge of his career as an artist who was a witness to the violence of colonialism.
Brymner’s selected exhibition history is divided into two sections: key exhibitions of his work during his lifetime and exhibitions held after his death.
Selected Exhibitions during Brymner’s Lifetime
Salon des Artistes Français, Paris
Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London
World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago
Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo
Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis
Canadian Art Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
February 26, Solo Exhibition of Paintings by Wm. Brymner, Esq., C.M.G., P.R.C.A., The Arts Club, Montreal
In addition to those listed above, Brymner regularly submitted works to the annual exhibitions organized by the Art Association of Montreal and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. For lists of the works Brymner exhibited in these exhibitions, see Evelyn de R. McMann, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, formerly Art Association of Montreal: Spring Exhibitions, 1880–1970 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988) and Evelyn de R. McMann, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts/Académie royale des arts du Canada: Exhibitions and Members, 1880–1979 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981). Brymner also submitted works to the exhibitions organized by the Canadian Art Club. For information on these submissions, see Robert J. Lamb, The Canadian Art Club, 1907–1915 (Edmonton: Edmonton Art Gallery, 1988).
Selected Exhibitions after Brymner’s Death
November 30–December 14, Paintings and Watercolors by the Late William Brymner, C. M. G., R. C. A., Watson Art Galleries, Montreal
January 30–February 14, Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by the Late William Brymner, C.M.G., R.C.A., Art Association of Montreal
May 13–July 1, William Brymner, 1855–1925: A Retrospective, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston. Travelled to National Gallery of Canada, July 13–August 19; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, August 30–September 30; and Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, October 11–November 11.
March 27–July 25, William Brymner: Artist, Teacher, Colleague, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston. Travelled to Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, November 11, 2010–April 10, 2011, and Winnipeg Art Gallery, May 14–August 21, 2011.
Selected Writings by Brymner
“Progress in Art.” University Magazine 6, no. 2 (April 1907): 239–46.
“Village Life in Three Countries.” University Magazine 11, no. 2 (April 1912): 309–26.
Brymner’s lecture on Impressionism has been published in Alicia Boutilier and Paul Maréchal, William Brymner: Artist, Teacher, Colleague (Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 2010), 133–49, and in A.K. Prakash, Impressionism in Canada: A Journey of Rediscovery (Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2015), 698–705.
The largest surviving collection of Brymner’s letters is a collection of letters to his family. This collection is housed at Queen’s University Archives and also includes surviving manuscripts for some of Brymner’s lectures and articles.
Brymner’s letters to Clarence Gagnon (1881–1942) are part of the Clarence Gagnon fonds at the McCord Museum; they are available online here.
The Art Association of Montreal’s press clippings scrapbooks include numerous reviews that mention Brymner’s work, as well as newspaper reports on the teaching program at the AAM. The scrapbooks are available online here.
Selected Critical Writings on Brymner’s Work
Bouchard, Lydia. “Les paysages québécois de William Brymner, expérience de la nature comme lieu identitaire canadien au tournant du XXe siècle.” Master’s thesis, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2009.
Boutilier, Alicia, and Paul Maréchal. William Brymner: Artist, Teacher, Colleague. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 2010.
Braide, Janet. William Brymner, 1855–1925: A Retrospective. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1979. Exhibition catalogue.
Boulet, Roger. Vistas: Artists on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 2009.
Bruce, Tobi, and Patrick Shaw Cable. The French Connection: Canadian Painters at the Paris Salons, 1880–1900. Hamilton: Art Gallery of Hamilton, 2011.
Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, 1880–1930. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2019.
Landry, Madeleine. Beaupré, 1896–1904: Lieu d’inspiration d’une peinture identitaire. Quebec: Septentrion, 2014.
Meadowcroft, Barbara. Painting Friends: The Beaver Hall Women Painters. Montreal: Véhicule, 1999.
1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group. Edited by Jacques des Rochers and Brian Foss. Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2015.
Parsons, Crystal S. Maurice Cullen and His Circle. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2009.
Pringle, Allan. “William Cornelius Van Horne: Art Director, Canadian Pacific Railway.” Journal of Canadian Art History 8, no. 1 (1984): 50–79.
Sicotte, Hélène, and Michèle Grandbois. Clarence Gagnon, 1881–1942: Dreaming the Landscape. Quebec: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2006.
Sisler, Rebecca. Passionate Spirits. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1980.