Jean Lightman: An Inspiring Artist in our Midst

By Anne Lehmann  Correspondent
June 2, 2023

Jean Lightman is connected to Concord in a variety of ways; she and her husband Alan have lived in Concord for 44 years, they have raised two daughters here and Lightman has a local studio where she composes her paintings. Lightman’s life unfolds like her paintings one layer at a time and over time.

Growing up in the woods of Atlanta, Lightman reflects that she has always been a visual person. As a youngster she took time to study things in nature enjoying its beauty.  She roamed the woods taking in the sights, sounds and smells of her surroundings being silently observant.  

“As a child I never thought I could have a career as an artist,” she said. However, throughout her life, art is a continual presence.

While studying at Washington University in Saint Louis she focused on a degree in history and urban studies, but continued to make time for art, including a graduate degree in regional planning and policy analysis from Cornell. She began working at the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare and soon after her art career and love life took off.

She met Alan Lightman, the love of her life, in Ithaca, “We settled in Boston and he encouraged me to pursue my dream, and pursue it seriously.”  

Taking this into consideration she took her first art classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and then at the de Cordova Museum. Lightman finally found a life-altering teacher, Paul Ingbretson, who teaches the Boston School tradition of painting. 

“I walked into his teaching studio, the Fenway Studios in the Back Bay built in 1905, and it was like stepping back in time,” she said. “ The studios were flooded with natural light, northern light specifically, which is excellent for drawing and painting.”  

For the next year and a half her companions were sticks of charcoal and drawing paper.  She focused on drawing sculptures (cast drawing).  She drew what she saw focusing on shadows, black and white and the difference in between. Over the nine years studying with Ingbretson she continually looked at relationships of lights and darks and she then shifted into working with color painting still lifes and portraits. 

The next step was finding a studio closer to Concord, and the Umbrella Arts Center was the perfect match. “I love working in a building surrounded by artists who are doing a variety of types of work and who are very supportive of one another.” She loves to paint flowers, especially peonies. Before she even picks up a brush, she sets up her still life backdrops, vases and a variety of flora and then steps back to revise. “The fun part is the searching. It takes a lot of patience.”

A final layer of Lightman’s career is her connection to The Guild of Boston Artists, a century-old nonprofit gallery founded in 1914 by some of Boston’s most celebrated representational artists. 

“The Guild is very close to my heart and I’m honored to be a part and to serve as President of the Board, the first woman to be elected president since the Guild’s founding.” Like the early European guilds, artist members are selected because they adhere to the highest standards of excellence. 

To learn more about her work see her website