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America out of doors.

The high desert country of Washington state is bordered on the east by the soaring peaks of the Cascade Range. Artist and illustrator John Clymer grew up in this rugged area of humbling landscapes and inspiring views that later became the source for some of his most memorable Saturday Evening Post cover paintings.

Clymer remembered his first encounter with art. A magazine salesman called on the Clymers' home in Ellensburg, and young John, scrutinizing his samples, was entranced by the beautiful illustrations. This was the early '20s--the golden age of magazine art--when magazines and advertisers used paintings rather than photographs to attract readers and customers.

Thereafter, Clymer haunted newsstands, scouring new periodicals for interesting illustrations. At 13, he convinced his parents to pay for a fouryear art correspondence course after promising them he'd complete high school, despite being a mediocre student. The idea of becoming an illustrator had a dual appeal. "! always wanted to live in the mountains," he later recalled. "I wanted to get into forestry, but my folks wouldn't listen to that at all. Then I got to thinking that if I could paint pictures, I could live wherever I wished."

At 16, Clymer sent several wildlife drawings to the Colt Firearms Co. To his delight, the art director bought one. His first sale appeared in several national magazines.

Clymer eventually attended four art schools: the Vancouver School of Fine Art, the Ontario College of Art, the influential Wilmington Society of Fine Arts in Delaware, and Harvey Dunn's Grand Central School of Art. Along the way, he made some influential acquaintances. In Vancouver, he befriended George Southwell, an elderly English artist who helped him master the basic elements of form and composition. In Wilmington, he met the early Post cover illustrator N.C. Wyeth, who shared Clymer's enthusiasm for Western and animal themes. Another Post illustrator, Harold Von Schmidt, later helped the artist break into new illustration markets.

Clymer's commercial career began in Canada. He worked there for 11 years, earning a solid reputation and membership in the Royal Canadian Academy, but his burning ambition was to make a name in the United States. A summer sojourn in Canada, however, became a transforming experience for the young artist. After working to the point of physical exhaustion, Clymer took some time off---on doctor's orders. He spent a summer as a deckhand on a Yukon paddlewheeler that delivered supplies to Indians and back-country settlements. 'The people and places stayed with him. "I never planned it that way, but that chance summer trip has guided and shaped my life ever since," he said.

Clymer married childhood sweetheart Doris Schnebly in 1932. In 1936, the growing family moved to Westport, Conn., where his U.S. career slowly gained momentum. Clymer's scenic and wildlife paintings found buyers at a local gallery, and, in 1942, he landed two Saturday Evening Post cover assignments. The first, depicting a native American totem pole with warplanes flying overhead, may have been inspired by his Yukon trip of years before.

During World War II, Clymer, at age 36, joined the U.S. Marine Corps. There he illustrated the Marine Corps Gazette and Leatherneck magazines and, with his friend Tom LoveIl, did a series of paintings depicting Marine Corps history that still hang at the national Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Following the war, during a family visit to Ellensburg, Clymer chanced to see his son peering into a hole in an old poplar stump. It struck him that this would be an ideal Post cover. He submitted the idea, and it was accepted. Thus began a 12-year association with the Past, resulting in about 80 cover paintings.

The artist traveled the country in search of cover subjects and settings. One summer he drove 13,000 miles. As the national highway system expanded, more and more families took driving vacations. Clymer's covers were popular. When the Post offered reprints, the response was overwhelming.

During his last 20 years, Clymer concentrated on paintings of Western and historical subjects. In 1968, he and Doris moved to Teton Village, Wyo., back to the mountains he loved, where he established a reputation as one of America's foremost Western artists with a flair for historical accuracy. "Only a small part of the epic story of the Western frontier has been recorded, and it's been my ambition to make a truthful contribution to that record in my paintings," the artist said.

John Clymer died Nov. 2, 1989. In 1991, a museum of his works was opened in his hometown. The Post Illustrators Hall of Fame displays many of Clymer's paintings. Western art collectors seek out Clymer's works, which have sold for as much as $300,000--quite a legacy for a boy who only wanted to be outdoors.
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Title Annotation:the art of illustrator and painter John Clymer
Author:Pettinga, Steven C.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:793
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