John Lyman was a key figure in the development of modern art in Canada, not only as an artist but also as a theorist, professor, and advocate for artists’ rights. Following nearly twenty-five years in Europe, where he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris under James Wilson Morrice, and with Henri Matisse at the Académie Matisse, Lyman returned to Montreal in 1931 and began working to improve conditions for artists in Canada. A proponent of international trends, Lyman was opposed to what he saw as the xenophobic nationalism of Canadian art; the Group of Seven, in his view, was an institution that stood in the way of progress. His style was characterized instead by the advanced formal concerns of his French training, and, like Matisse, he emphasized the role of instinct and the expression of feeling. His mature work—this watercolour is an example—does not stray far from Matisse in terms of subject matter (portraits, nudes, bathers), but displays relatively muted colours and a smooth handling of paint. At the time he completed The Bathers, North Hatley (Québec), Lyman was director of the Fine Arts Department at McGill University.