Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939 )

Born in Big Grove, Iowa, he spent his childhood wandering along the Missouri River in the Council Bluffs area. This was country that had been explored by Lewis and Clark 80 years before.Johnson was greatly influenced by artist Richard Lorenz, and became determined at an early age to make art his career.

After learning all he could from the teachers available in his home town, he went to New York and studied under Robert Henri at the Art Students League. As he improved his skills, he longed for the West, where he could paint the subjects he liked best. He settled on a ranch in Colorado and became a successful illustrator for magazines and books by such prominent writers of the period as Zane Grey.

In 1920, one of his artist friends from New York, Clyde Forsythe, left his career as a cartoonist in New York to return to California; shortly after, Johnson and his wife followed. The two friends shared a studio in Alhambra for many years, and there Johnson painted his favorite themes--Indians, cowboys and early settlers. The studio became the gathering place for some of the best known artists of the period--Charles Russell, Ed Borein, Dean Cromwell and Norman Rockwell.

In time, Johnson became known for his paintings of cowboys under the stars, This became known as "The Johnson Moonlight Technique". As the art business flourished, Johnson and Forsythe founded the Biltmore Art Gallery in the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. They also became enthusiastic participants in the group organized by Borein and other friends, Rancho Visitadores, which met annually in Santa Barbara.

Johnson's art won him numerous awards and world-wide acclaim and was a source of inspiration for many of the younger artists. At the height of his career spinal meningitis took his life in Pasadena.

SOURCE: Drummond Gallery "Biography, Frank Tenney Johnson"

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