For Lyman, a painting had two subjects – the apparent and the real. The former was a pretext for the latter, which was his way of painting. He insisted upon the primacy of such formal elements as composition, structure and colour over a work’s more obvious content. His ideas on aesthetics reflected the most advanced art theories of the time, and, through his writings (notably those published in the magazine The Montrealer), he became one of Canada’s first and best art critics. Lyman was the driving force behind the formation in 1938 of the Eastern Group of Painters and, the following year, of the Contemporary Arts Society.