Image Credit: Kinsman Robinson Galleries

John Newman

Painting & Drawing

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

“I am never satisfied with my drawing but satisfied that I am getting closer all the time. I think one aspect of drawing that drives us to do more is that it defies perfection … It’s mysteries cannot be put into words.” – John Newman

Available works range between $2,000 and $12,000


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 (A Tribute to John Newman: A Retrospective) 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.

Read more on John’s recovery in the The Toronto Star article The Art of Rewriting the Brain.

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 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.

Artist John Newman with his wife Shirley in their home, Spring 2010.

Art Academy of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio); Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario); Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (Montréal, Québec); Art Gallery of Mississauga (Mississauga, Ontario); Art Gallery of Hamilton (Hamilton, Ontario); the Gallery/Stratford; Rodman Hall Arts Centre (St. Catherines, Ontario); Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (Kitchener, Ontario); Art Gallery of Algoma (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario); The Canadian Embassy,Rome; Art Bank; Confederation Life; Smith Nixon & Co.; UBS Bank (Canada); Eaton’s; Department of External Affairs (Washington, D.Ca., United States); Imperial Oil; Wood Gundy Private Client Investments; A.E. Ames & Co.; Mary Kay Cosmetics, Insitute Peto, Budapest.


2015 New Pastels from Right-to-left, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

2013 A Tribute to John Newman, Retrospective, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

2011 Right-to-left, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

1995 Rites of Passage, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montréal, Québec

1995 Rites of Passage, Rodman Hall Arts Centre, St. Catherines, Ontario

1995 Rites of Passage, Thames Art Gallery, Chatham Cultural Centre, Chatham, Ontario

1995 Rites of Passage, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario

1994 Rites of Passage, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

1994 Rites of Passage, Gallery Stratford, Stratford, Ontario

1989 New Works, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

1983 Solo Exhibition, Madison Gallery, Toronto, Ontario

1982 Two-man Exhibition, Masters Gallery, Calgary, Alberta

1981 Solo Exhibition, Prince Arthur Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

1981 Solo Exhibition, Hett Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta

1979 Solo Exhibition, Prince Arthur Galleries, Toronto, Ontario

1977 Solo Exhibition, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy

1977 Group Exhibition, Salon 77, Paris, France

1976 Solo Exhibition, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario

1975 Solo Exhibition, Galerie de L’Esprit, Montreal, Québec

1975 Solo Exhibition, Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario

1974 Travelling Solo Exhibition, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

1974 Travelling Solo Exhibition, Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre, Corner Brook, Newfoundland

1974 Travelling Solo Exhibition, Grand Falls Arts and Culture Centre, Grand Falls, Newfoundland

1974 Travelling Solo Exhibition, Memorial University Art Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland

1973 Travelling Solo Exhibition, Gander Arts and Culture Centre, Gander, Newfoundlan

1973 Travelling Solo Exhibition, Art Gallery, Erindale College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

1971 Solo Exhibition, Lefebvre gallery, Edmonton, Alberta

2015 John Newman: New Pastels from Right to Left, Kinsman Robinson Galleries. (Downloadable PDF)

2013 A Tribute to John Newman: A Retrospective, Kinsman Robinson Galleries. (Downloadable PDF)

2011 John Newman: Right to Left, Kinsman Robinson Galleries. (Downloadable PDF)

Debra Black, The Art of Rewiring The Brain, The Star, Toronto

Robert Freeman, John Newman: Rites of Passage, Gallery Stratford

Kay Kritzwiser, John Newman: Rites of Passage, ArtMagazine, Toronto

Martin Hammock, John Newman at the Prince Arthur Gallery, ArtMagazine, Toronto

Jerrold Morris, 100 Years of Canadian Drawings, Methuen, 1980

Sol Littman, Shows spotlight human figure, The Toronto Daily Star, Toronto

James Purdie, Gallery Reviews, Globe & Mail, Toronto

Paul Duval, At the Art Gallery of Hamilton, ArtMagazine, Toronto

Robert C. Freeman, Of Human Bondage, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Henry Lehman, To Write A Painting, Montréal Star, Montréal

Virginia Nixon, Ottawa has two fine shows, The Gazette, Montréal

Don MacKay, John Newman’s painting combine truth and Innocence, Grand Falls Advertiser, Grand Falls

Pat Fleisher, Two Toronto Surrealists, ArtMagazine, Toronto

Kay Kritzwiser, A Tender Look at Little Girls, Globe & Mail, Toronto

Bernadette Andrews, An extraordinary artist’s model, The Telegram, Toronto

Pearl McCarthy, Quick Sketching, Live Subjects at the OCA, Toronto

Art copyright © 2022 John Newman. Text copyright © 2022 Kinsman Robinson Galleries. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No component of this website, including images, text, video and computer code, may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means—electronic, graphic, digital or mechanical, including photocopying or information storage & retrieval systems—without the express prior written permission of John Newman. Videography and editing: John MacGregor Newman.

Selected Works

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