During his long artistic career, John Clymer developed a highly effective process for painting the history of the American West. First, he and his wife, Doris, would painstakingly research the subject of the painting, down to the smallest details of setting, climate, and historic period. After completing their research, they would then travel to the proposed site for the painting to get a firsthand feeling for the area. As a result of these intensive preparations, Clymer’s paintings are both rich in accurate historical detail and successful in capturing the essence of their geographical settings. Clymer was adept at recreating an historical event or era while, at the same time, drawing the viewer into the physical scene.
Clymer was born in Ellensburg, Washington, in 1907. By the time he joined the Cowboy Artists of America in 1969, he had achieved a highly successful career as both an illustrator and easel painter. Through his work for the Saturday Evening Post, he brought images of the West to literally thousands of Americans. From 1942 to 1962, Clymer painted more than seventy cover illustrations for the magazine, many of them Western scenes. In the era before television, Clymer’s illustrations served to introduce countless people to the many stories of the American West, from the fur trade to the cattle drives. He literally bridged two generations of Western artists – the early twentieth century illustrators such as Harvey Dunn, with whom he studied, to the members of the CAA, for whom he served as mentor and role model.
Clymer was particularly interested in depicting the history of the Pacific Northwest, where he grew up. He attempted to tell the whole story of the region, creating sensitive and detailed depictions of Native American life and the meeting of Native and Anglo cultures. One of his featured subjects was the great fur trade era, which led to the exploration of the region. Clymer was also equally talented in depicting the native wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. Fittingly, his life and work is now commemorated in the Clymer Museum in his native town of Ellensburg.
Collections: Eiteljorg Museum of Art; National Center for American Western Art, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, National Museum of Wildlife Art
CAA Member from 1968-1989
Born: January 29, 1907
Education: Vancouver School of Art, Ontario School of Art, Grand Central School of Art, Wilmington Academy of Art