“John Newman’s extraordinary adaptation to the paralysis of his right hand, his drawing hand, by rewiring his brain, in his late seventies, so that he could draw with his left hand, is a story in itself.” – Norman Doidge, MD, author of “The Brain That Changes Itself” and “The Brain’s Way of Healing”
Featuring 18 never-before-seen pastels executed with a fresh enthusiasm and self-confidence capable only after a lifetime spent working with the figure. Join us as we celebrate the work of this renowned Canadian artist who found the courage and inspiration to recover his art after he was partially paralyzed in 2006. See also: The art of rewiring a brain »
One morning back in February 2006, I found myself in Mount Sinai Hospital totally paralyzed except for my left arm and my head. Although my brain was functioning normally, I didn’t want to be attached to this almost useless body. So, when I left Mount Sinai a little more than a month later for Bridgepoint Health rehabilitation hospital, I was determined to get better. When I left Bridgepoint in February 2007, I had been hospitalized for a total of 16 months. For some, not being able to walk would be devastating, but for me, not being able to draw was a far greater blow. It took me some time to deal with the depression caused by my loss. However, while still in rehab, I started drawing in the air with my left hand. Before I went home, I was given an opportunity to actually draw on paper. The image on page 24 represents that first attempt. To my surprise, I found my left hand worked better than I had imagined and I was able to transfer my drawing skills. Upon returning home, a good friend Robert Kajoika, who had been in medical research, brought me the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge. Even when I was too tired to do anything else, I read. Now, four years later, I am making improvements with my mobility and I am determined to relearn how to walk. I still cannot stand on my own. Notwithstanding, I continue to work, and I am drawing regularly. Being able to draw again has made life worth living. —John Newman, A.O.C.A., CSPW, RCA
The sophistication of John Newman's compositions and sustained figure drawings places him among the finest figurative painters of the twentieth century such as Balthus, Delvaux and Pascin—a reward that is owed in part to Newman's lifelong devotion to drawing. This exceptional skill provides a unique foundation for his work in watercolours, pastels, oils and mixed media. While his palette has changed over the years, evolving into a more subtle use of colour, he has remained true to his vision.
The friendship and encouragement of his fellow Canadian artists, John Alfsen, Eric Freifeld, Fred Hagan, Tom La Pierre and William McElcheran as well as two American artists, Ivan Albright and Raphael Soyer, gave him support during a period when figurative art was not fashionable.
With an iconography consisting of wedding veils, children's dolls, toys and bicycles, John Newman, A.O.C.A., CSPW, RCA, seeks to express his inner feelings rather than merely to convey a painterly impression of the external world. Throughout five decades, he has concentrated primarily on depicting the human form. The adolescent female has remained his central focus along with issues of fertility, the cycle of life and rites of passage.
Art Academy of Cincinnati; Art Gallery of Ontario; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Art Gallery of Mississauga; Art Gallery of Hamilton; the Gallery/Stratford; Rodman Hall Arts Centre; Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; Art Gallery of Algoma; The Canadian Embassy, Rome; Art Bank; Confederation Life; Smith Nixon & Co.; UBS Bank (Canada); Eaton's; Department of External Affairs, Washington, DC; Imperial Oil; Wood Gundy Private Client Investments; A.E. Ames & Co.; Mary Kay Cosmetics, Insitute Peto, Budapest