Frank Tenney Johnson

American 1874 - 1939


Born near Big Grove, IA on June 26, 1874. The farm on which Johnson was raised was located on the old Overland Trail where as a child he observed the westward migration. In his early teens he ran away from home and became an apprentice to the panorama painter F. W. Heine in Milwaukee, and at age 15 studied with former Texas Ranger, Richard Lorenz.


Moving to NYC in 1895, he studied at the ASL, NY School of Art, and with Chase, Mora, Miller, and Henri. He worked for Milwaukee newspapers until 1902 and in 1904 worked as a cowboy in Colorado. Johnson then returned to NYC where he gained national fame as a painter and illustrator of cowboys and Indians. While working in NYC, he visited California in 1912 and 1918.


During the 1920s he settled in Alhambra, CA where he shared a studio with Clyde Forsythe. The two artists established the Biltmore Art Gallery in Los Angeles as a market place for their works. Johnson was one of the few painters of cowboys and Indians who specialized in nocturnes. A casual kiss at a Christmas party led to his death of spinal meningitis on Jan. 1, 1939 in Los Angeles.