Frank Tenney Johnson (1874 - 1939)

Birth date: 1874 Death date: 1939  
Birth location: Big Grove, Iowa Death location: Pasadena, California  
Media: Drawing , Illustration , Painter , Painter / Watercolor , Painting , Painting / Oil , Photography Web site:
Fair (file rating) - MWA artist file may include basic data, and additional newspaper articles, book references, exhibition information, and images that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody, Wyoming.


Frank Tenney Johnson
Born 1874 in Big Grove, Iowa
Died 1939 in California

Born on the Iowa prairies, June 26, 1874 in Big Grove, Iowa and in 1888 his family moved back to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin where he attended Oconomowoc High School.  While in High School he visited the Layton Art Gallery in Milwaukee, the paintings in the gallery made him determined to pursue a successful art career.    

In 1892 Johnson studied and apprenticed under Frederich Wilhelm Heine at the F.W. Heine Studio for one year. He also studied Western painting under Richard Lorenz in Milwaukee while working for Marr & Richards Engraving Company doing free lance line drawings and watercolor jobs to earn money.

1895,  Johnson went to New York  and attended the Art Student's League, NYC and studied under John Henry Twatchmsn.  In 1896, Johnson returned to Milwaukee and worked at Mandel Engraving Co.and later that year married Vinnie Reeves Francis in West Allis, WI.

His visits to South Dakota, Indian country produced paintings of the Indians that were exhibited at the Iverson Gallery in Milw. Around 1902-03 Frank & Vinnie had saved enough money for Frank to go to New York and study at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri and William Merrit Chase. He did illustration work in New York for the Winchester Manufacturing Company and Field & Stream Magazine.

By 1904, F T Johnson went to Colorado's cattle & Indian country; this trip shaped his future career.  While he was on this trip Vinnie agreed to return to Milwaukee and stay with his parents. Upon  returning to New York  Johnson continued to do illustrations  for Field & Stream to repay the money they gave him for passage on his trip West to Colorado.  He also did illustrations for Cosmopolitan, Harper's Monthly and Harper's Weekly.  Frank Tenney Johnson died of spinal meningitis January 1, 1939 in California,  he was 64 years old Vinnie Reeves Francis Johnson died December 11, 1956 at 80 years old.

© 2010, 11/18 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, WI

  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Instagram icon
  • Flickr icon
  • Youtube icon
  • E-News icon