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Lionel Fielding Downes was born in Wigan, Lancashire, England on April 15, 1900. He studied with Amy Phelps and Wilfred Ball in England before immigrating to Winnipeg, Canada in 1912. There he studied at the School of Fine Arts in Winnipeg (where he was twice awarded bursaries) under the direction of Frank H. Johnston of the Group of Seven (1919-1923) and with Charles Comfort and Hal Foster; at the Federal School of Design in Minneapolis (1918) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1924-1927). He sketched with Nicholas de Grandmaison, travelled by canoe, painting native scenes of the North. He painted with Arthur Lismer, R.C.A. (one of the group of Seven) and F. S.Coburn, R.C.A. He served as War Artist with RAF (1940-45) and later studied at the New York Art Students' League (1951-1953), directed by Louis Bouché, N.A., studying impressionism with L.Lemoyne Fitzgerald, and illustration with Charles Comfort, F.R.C.A. Working in pastels, oil and watercolor, Lionel Downes painted Québec Scenes, landscapes, figures and still life.
Downes enjoyed considerable popularity in Canada and abroad during the sixties and early seventies. His paintings have been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal, the Montréal Art Gallery, l'Art Francaise Gallery of Montreal, the Royal Canadian Academy, the Beaverbrook National Gallery of Fredericton, N.B., and the Israel National Gallery of Tel-Aviv.
In the United States he exhibited at the Palette and Chisel Club of Chicago, the Art Student's League of New York, and the Veerhoff Galleries of Washington, D.C.
Lionel Fielding Downes died suddenly on December 28, 1972 in Ste-Foy, Québec.