"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

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.

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.

Milestones & Awards

  • 1907: John Clymer - Born January 29, only child of John P. and Elmira (Ford) Clymer
  • 1923: lst illustration, Bronc Rider, for Ellensburg Rodeo, Galvin’s Service Station
  • 1924: lst Paid Illustration, Colt Firearms, Completed while junior in high school
  • 1930: Studied with Frank Schoonover at Wilmington Academy of Art in Delaware
  • 1936: Went to school at Grand Central School of Art, New York City
  • 1937: Moved to Westport, Connecticut (Lived there for 31 years)
  • 1941: Painted annual calendar for American Cyanamid Company (1941-1969)
  • 1942-62: Painted 80 Saturday Evening Post covers
  • 1944-45: Joined U. S. Marine Corps – Painted and illustrated Leatherneck and U. S. Marine Gazette magazines
  • 1947: Started traveling and seriously painting Northwest U.S. and Canada
  • 1959: Illustrations for Field & Stream
  • 1960: First historical painting after one of his trips to Montana
  • 1960: Group show at Grand Central Art Galleries titled, “Western Wildlife”
  • 1962-72: Society of Animal Artists, exhibited
  • 1964: Decision was made to discontinue commercial illustration
  • 1964-89: Painted historical works . . . 25 years
  • 1964: lst One-Man-Show at Grand Central Art Galleries (New York City)
  • 1966: Float trip on the Missouri gathering information for historical paintings
  • 1969-83: Cowboy Artists of America, exhibited
  • 1969: Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Winchester exhibit commissioned. Became a member of Cowboy Artists of America.
  • 1969: Won Silver Medal for “Buffalo Ponies” oil (CAA)
  • 1970: Won Bronze Medal: Awarded at the Cowboy Hall of Fame to the American Sportsman Magazine for the best article publicizing western art for the article, “John Clymer’s West”. Moved to Teton Village, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Won Gold Medal for “Land of Plenty” oil (CAA)
  • 1970-80: John Clymer quoted, “And I feel like I’ve done work that will be important to how people view the West.”
  • 1972-74: “Rendezvous of Art” Montana Historical Society
  • 1973: Won Gold Medal in Western Art from Franklin Mint. Won Gold Medal for “Whisky, Whisky” oil (CAA). Became Charter member of National Academy of Western Art and National Cowboy Hall of Fame
  • 1974: Won Gold Medal for, “Sacajawea at the Big Water” oil (National Academy of Western Art)
  • 1975: Exhibit: “Animals in Art” Royal Ontario Museum
  • 1976: Won Prix de West for “Out of the Silence” Oil (National Academy of Western Art). Won Silver Medal (CAA). Won Gold Medal for “Campkeeper” (charcoal) (CAA)
  • 1976: Won Colt Award (CAA)
  • 1977: Won Gold Medal for “Nor’wester” (charcoal) (CAA)
  • 1979: Award of Merit, Society of Animal Artists, Sportsman’s Edge, New York City for “Gathering Storm”
  • 1979: Won Gold Medal (CAA)
  • 1981: Won Silver Medal for “Long Cold Winter”
  • 1982: Elected to New York Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame
  • 1982: Featured on PBS in “Profiles in American Art”
  • 1982: Exhibit: “One Hundred Years of Western Art from Pittsburgh Collections” displayed at the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art
  • 1983: Received “Western Artist of the Year”, from National Wildlife Art Collectors Society
  • 1985: Solo Retrospective (of western history paintings 1968-1984) at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • 1986: PBS special, “West of the Imagination” and book “The West of the Imagination”, by William H. Goetzmann
  • 1987: Appeared in group retrospective at Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Appeared with Tom Lovell and Donald Teague
  • 1987: Became member of Advisory Board of the National Park Academy of Art, “Arts for the Parks”
  • 1988: “OK” from the Clymer family to establish the Clymer Museum of Art (March 8, 1988)
  • 1988: John Clymer appeared on NBC, “Today” show
  • 1988: Received “Rungius Medal” from Wildlife of American West Art Museum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for painting “Late Arrivals-Green River Rendezvous”
  • 1988: “Late Arrivals-Green River Rendezvous” last and most challenging painting John painted in his career
  • 1989: Saluted by CAA & received “Silver Saddle” (award of merit)
  • 1989: John F. Clymer passed away – November 2, 1989
  • 1990: “Gentlemen of Western Art: A Tribute to John Clymer and James Boren” featured at Cowboy Art of American Museum, Kerrville, TX (from November 3-December 30, 1990)
  • 1991: “One Man’s America: A Retrospective on the Art of John Clymer (1907-1989)” The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon (March 9-July 22, 1991)
  • 1991: “The West of John Clymer” Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, Los Angeles, CA (September 21-November 11, 1991)

John Clymer: Permanent Collection

Winter Hours

Monday - Friday: 11AM-5PM
Saturday: 11AM-3PM
Sunday: Closed
Closed all major holidays

Spring Hours (begins April 1st)

Monday - Friday: 10:30AM-5PM
Saturday: 11AM-3PM
Sunday: Closed
(Saturday May 1st: 10AM - 3PM)

Contact Information

Phone: (509) 962-6416
Email: director@clymermuseum.org

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416 N. Pearl Street
Ellensburg, WA 98926
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