Author Tags: Biography

Born in Wellingborough, England on May 14, 1939, Max Wyman studied piano and theory as a youth and began his career in journalism with the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph at 14. Max Wyman came to Canada in 1967 and began writing for Vancouver Sun in 1968, later specializing in dance criticism while married to dancer and choreographer Anna Wyman. He later married former Sun music critic Susan Mertens. The couple moved to Lions Bay in 1978 and he became a naturalized Canadian in 1979.

Wyman has edited a collection of essays on Vancouver, an appreciative biography of Vancouver jeweller Toni Cavelti and produced numerous books on dance. Dance Canada: An Illustrated History was named one of the “165 Great Canadian Books of the Century” by the Vancouver Public Library in 2000. He was appointed to serve as a member of the Canada Council in 1995. He later received the Order of Canada for his services to the arts, and an honorary degree from Simon Fraser University. He was appointed President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO in 2001. The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters (D&M, 2004) is a passionate argument for the return of the arts and culture to the centre of the public agenda. In 2005 Max Wyman was elected as mayor of Lions Bay and remained as such until 2008. He wrote the introduction to The Life & Art of Frank Molnar, Jack Hardman & LeRoy Jensen by Eve Lazarus, Claudia Cornwall & Wendy Newbold Patterson (Mother Tongue 2009). Wyman was founding chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional Cultural Committee.

Mayor Gregor Robertson declared April 18, 2017, as Max Wyman Day in the City of Vancouver in conjunction with a public event at the Vancouver Playhouse, spearheaded by Yosef Wosk, whereby more than 400 people gathered for a tribute to Wyman. Wosk simultaneously endowed a new Max Wayman Award for Cultural Commentary to be given bi-annually to recognize the importance of critics in the art world. Wyman himself was named as the first laureate for the Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary.


The Royal Winnipeg Ballet: The First Forty Years (1978)
Dance Canada: An Illustrated History (Douglas & McIntyre, 1989).
Evelyn Hart: An Intimate Portrait (1991)
Vancouver Forum: Old Powers, New Forces (D&M, 1992)
Revealing Dance (Dance Collection Danse, 2001)
Toni Cavelti: A Jeweller's Life (D&M 1996)
The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters (D&M, 2004)

[LITHIS / BCBW 2017] "Dance" "Biography"

Toni Cavelti: A Jeweller's Life by Max Wyman (D&M $60)

Toni Cavelti: A Jeweller's Life by Max Wyman (D&M $60) provides another variation on the theme of the immigrant with the Midas touch, though Cavelti's story belongs more to the tradition of the Germanic fairy tale.
The youngest son of a Swiss family, Cavelti served a long apprenticeship in the goldsmith's trade, developing a magical skill in jewelry design, far surpassing the usual technical mastery. Realizing that his native land would limit his scope for developing his skill, he set out for the New World.
At the age of 23, equipped with only $8, the tools of his trade and a romantic vision of the Canadian west, he arrived in Vancouver. There he made his fortune by creating fine jewelry for the rich, including the Queen.
And thereby hangs a tale: In 1971 he was commissioned to make a necklace of B.C. gold and local jade to mark a royal visit. A suggestion from Cavelti that it include one hundred diamonds to commemorate the centenary was rejected as too expensive. The B.C. government funnelled the money for the Queen's necklace through the Department of Highways. When he eventually received his payment, the $2,800 barely covered Cavelti's costs.
Cavelti not only went on to make a fortune, he became a great artist. If a fairy godfather had been present at Cavelti's birth, he could not have given a more useful gift than guiding Cavelti to his business location. It was below the New Design Gallery where the city's rising artists — Toni Onley, Jack Shadbolt and Bill Reid — exhibited regularly.
The upstairs artists became Cavelti's friends. Through their work Cavelti found himself connected to the modernist artistic movement under way in the Vancouver of the '50s and '60s. It was this influence on his designs which gave them their characteristic style, brought his work to its full flowering and helped to establish his national and international reputation.
Wyman's portrait includes not only a description of Cavelti's technique but also a discussion of whether he is a true artist or simply a master craftsman. Cavelti himself modestly lays claim only to the stature of master craftsman. He feels that making jewellery for personal adornment and profit precludes the label of artist. His friends disagree. Toni Onley argues that craft does spill over into artistry and sculptor Bill Reid says that it is mastery of the craft that allows art to emerge.
Cavelti admits to a secret desire that perhaps one day someone will choose to acquire his work not to wear but to place under glass and look at. This book would seem to come close to fulfilling that desire because it contains 120 lavish color photographs of pieces just to be looked at. These also fulfill the purpose of allowing those unable to afford works of art a chance to savour their beauty.

[BCBW 1997]

Wyman Award
Press release (2017)

Instituted by community leader and philanthropist Dr. Yosef Wosk, The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary is a new biennial award celebrating critical writing and commentary on the visual, performing and literary arts.

Max Wyman, the first laureate, will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in honour of his commitment and dedication to critical writing and cultural commentary during a ceremony and gala at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton Street, Vancouver) on Tuesday, April 18 at 5:30 p.m.

The public is invite to attend this evening of words, dance and music to be hosted by Christopher Gaze, artistic director of Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.

Among the guest speakers and performers will be: publisher Scott McIntyre, multidisciplinary artist Hank Bull, writer and editor Charles Campbell, artistic and executive director of PuSh International Performing Arts Festival Norman Armour, actor Nicola Cavendish, pianist Linda Lee Thomas and dancers Noam Gagnon and Wen Wei Wang.

Attendance is free.

The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary is produced by The Dance Centre in partnership with the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture.

Please contact Joyce Wan at the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture at 604 681 3535 or info@allianceforarts.com.