H. Lyman Saÿen


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Painter. Born in Philadelphia and trained as a scientist, as a young man Henry Lyman Saÿen excelled in electrical engineering and early X-ray technology. He began his study of art in 1899 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Charles Grafly and Thomas Anshutz numbered among his teachers. In 1906 when he left for eight years in Paris, he was a well-trained academic artist and illustrator. While studying with Matisse in 1908, he developed a bright fauve style. Composing with broad strokes of color, he painted Parisian street scenes. Returning to Philadelphia, he focused on landscapes of vividly colored, flattened patterns. In Scheherazade (Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1915), elements of a house and garden are barely distinguishable within a riot of energetically interacting colors. In his last two years, Saÿen moved toward a more complex and intellectually ordered manner of working. Compositions became flatter and color areas, more precisely bounded. He experimented with collage elements and trompe l'oeil patterns suggesting such materials as wallpaper. With their flat, interlocking compositions and sophisticated interaction of reality and illusion, these paintings paralleled French developments in Synthetic cubism. Within these works, unique in American practice of that time, Saÿen sometimes included motifs that related to his developing interest in American Indian art. His life cut short at the age of forty-three, Saÿen remained little known for the next half century.

Subjects: Art.

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