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Hayes Lyon

When considering regional artists, Hayes Lyon is probably one of the finest to come from Colorado. Focused primarily on Colorado and it's amazing beauty his composition flourished using structure from objects he'd see in his journeys, such as roads, skies, trees and homes. Each piece has individuality, quality and distinction. The emotion found in the basics of mood and commonplace subjects makes his work quite stimulating and unforgettable.


Hayes Lyon was born in Athol, Kansas in 1909, but spent much of his childhood years visiting Colorado, with summer vacations at Manitou in Colorado Springs, and Boulder's Chatauqua. The family moved to Boulder in 1920, and nine years later started the Acme Lumber Company in Denver, Colorado. Because his adolescence took place in the time of the Roaring Twenties, Lyon acquired an attachment to Jazz which would be with him through his entire life.






Though always enamored with art, Lyon studied at the University of Colorado, and achieved a BA in economics in 1931, in order to appease the wishes of his father. But he couldn't ignore his calling, and through the support of his mother and two of his aunts, he pursued an education at the Chappell School of Art in Denver. While working odd jobs to put himself through school, Lyon had the privilege of meeting and befriending Jozef Bakos, a founder member of "Los Cinco Pintores", which was the first modernist art group in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


While still a student in 1933 Lyon ventured to Chicago to see "A Century of Progress: Paintings and Sculpture", which was held at the art institute. Overwhelmed by the exhibit, this experience would appear his works some seven years later. 1936 saw Lyon's first solo show at the Denver Art Museum, one of many to follow at multiple museums over his career. This show resulted in the purchase of "Underpass, 38th Avenue" by the Denver Art Museum for their collection. On the heels of this show Lyon started showing in exhibitions regionally, and in 1936 he entered two watercolors into the Five States Exhibit in Omaha, Nebraska.


After graduating from Chappell, which was now the University of Denver in 1937, Lyon ventured to Taos, New Mexico, and studied under Andrew Dasburg, who redirected Lyon's focus back to the Rockies and their natural beauty and ruggedness. This was a critical move for Lyon, as it resulted in a Memorial Prize at the 45th Annual Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum for his canvas "Winter Vista." A second piece, "Mount Evans," was shown in 1938 at the 133rd Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine arts and in the 3rd Annual National Exhibition of American Art in New York, garnering much recognition.


With the onset of the Great Depression, Lyon followed the path of many artists at the time and participated in the Colorado Art Project, part of the WPA national Program. He produced three murals in a local high schools. Reflecting the pioneer era of Ft. Lupton, Colorado and covering 367 feet of space, the Ft. Lupton project is one of his largest murals. The students of this 1940 project not only did the research for the work, they also raised the money for the supplies needed to complete it.


Lyon shifted his focus onto canyons with conifers and bathers, much to the dislike of some of his longtime followers. Though these pieces were not well received at first, "Conifers and Canyons" won notoriety in the 47th Annual Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum in 1941. The watercolor version would go on to be selected and shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., from a national fine arts competition. Later in the year Lyon would spend time in California where he was influenced by Orozco's "Prometheus", which would increase his range of originality and expression.


May 1942 saw the start of Lyon's nearly three year tour of the Mediterranean Theater during World War II. He was lucky enough to be selected to design dioramas and camouflage for operations, and since he was stationed in North Africa and Italy, got to take in his surroundings for future study. He was fortunate to meet and befriend de Chirico, who was so impressed by Lyon he made him a small watercolor and signed it. Lyon made a point to visit often at de Chirico's apartment, which was located near the Spanish steps of Rome.


With his discharge in 1945, Lyon was invited to teach at the Art Department in Austin at the University of Texas. From 1946-51 while instructing in oil painting, his works reflected the pieces he'd seen in Europe at the School of Paris. Upon leaving the university, he joined the Lower Colorado River Authority and worked as the illustrator and editor of the magazine.


1953 marked Lyon's return to Denver, and he once again found work as an illustrator, this time at Lowry Air Force Base. He remained there until his retirement in 1961, but rarely had time to paint. He resumed his craft in the mid '60s, painting from memories of childhood and his time in Europe during the war. By the '70s he had the onset of Alzheimer's and was forced to quit painting due to the progression of the disease. He did continue to draw on canvas as long as possible, into the late '70s and '80s. Hayes Lyon passed away from his illness in 1987.





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