John Clymer: 1907-1989

John Ford Clymer was the son of Elmira and John P. Clymer from Ellensburg, WA, born in 1907. At an early age John’s parents were aware of his special talent for art. In 1924, as a junior in high school, John made his first debut as a professional artist. Two carefully made pen and ink drawings were submitted to Colt Firearms Company, which were promptly bought. This was a tremendous starting point for him. Upon graduation, John moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where his uncle lived.

John’s days were spent working for mail order catalogues, nights he spent going to Vancouver’s art school, and in his free time he began working on medium oil paintings. For the next eight years, John continued with his education and his illustrations for several Canadian magazines. In 1932, John and Doris, his childhood sweetheart, decided to marry, and in 1935, they had a son, David. Doris returned home to Ellensburg, WA, for a visit and John travelled to New York.

New York was a mecca for illustrators, and was booming with opportunities. So in the fall of 1937, the Clymer’s moved to Westport, Connecticut, a suburb of New York. John was always fortunate to get illustration work. He did many original paintings for True, Field and Stream, American Cyanamid, White Horse Scotch Whiskey, Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Saturday Evening Post. When WWII was upon us, 35-year-old John signed up for the Marine Corp, with long time friend and illustrator, Tom Lovell. Both were assigned to the Leatherneck magazine as illustrators and later on to the Marine Corp Gazette.


“I think it is the accumulation of all these experiences, the research and the old stories, the trips on the old trails to actual places, the visits to history museums, large and small, that make it possible to do pictures that are real and believable and have the feeling of the place and the time. I have always tried in both wildlife paintings and historical paintings to take the viewer to an actual place and make him feel he was really there.”

John Clymer, An Artist’s Rendezvous With The Frontier West, W. Reed. P 32

In 1945, John left the military, and shortly after began to paint more covers for the Saturday Evening Post. John painted approximately 90 covers for the magazine between 1942 and 1962. And, in 1947, John and Doris were blessed with a daughter, Jo Lorraine. In 1970, the Clymer’s moved west to build their home in Teton Village in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here, John was able to concentrate more on what he loved, painting the Northwest.

In the winter months, Doris would do a tremendous amount of research. She would read and find interesting things for John to paint. During the summer months, with Doris by his side, the two of them would travel, and do research, all over the Northwest, visiting the Oregon Trail, Texas Bozeman Cattle Trail, and the Lewis and Clark country. During these trips, John would take sketches of what he would later make into his paintings. John wanted to paint what had never been captured on canvas before, and accurately depict the events that took place during that time period.

John Clymer has been recognized all over the world for his art and has received very high honors and awards, including the Prix de West, Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the prestigious Rungius Medal. John Clymer passed away in 1989 in his home in Jackson Hole. Even though he may be gone, his paintings and artwork will live on forever.