Biddeford, Maine, 1886 – Kingsley, Barbados, 1967
Arab Celebration, the Handkerchief Dance
Oil on canvas
99 x 80 cm
Gift of Dr. Ronnie Aronson, inv. 2019.177
Quebec and Canadian Art
Influenced by modernist artists Henri Matisse and James Wilson Morrice, John Lyman followed in their footsteps when he travelled to Tunisia in 1919. Stylistically, modern artists abandoned the naturalism of Orientalism in favour of emphasizing colour, texture and form, but the desire to imagine an “exoticized” East persisted. Lyman’s choice of subject matter is a continuation of an Orientalist archetype derived from European fantasies of the harem, which featured an elaborately, yet scantily dressed female dancer as its central subject. Although claiming later in his career that subject matter was less important than the formal qualities of artistic expression, Lyman’s interest in the central female figure is indicated by several studies dedicated to the model. It is possible that Lyman made these drawings in his studio upon returning from North Africa, where locals often resisted Orientalist practices by refusing to pose for visiting European painters.