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Frank Tenney Johnson: Moonbeams and Starlight

Frank Tenney Johnson (1874 – 1939) was a tall, good-looking son of an Iowa farmer. In the early 1900s, he spent much time in the western part of the country experiencing ranch life firsthand and storing information for future paintings. In addition to his cowboy chores, which he handled well, Johnson started a photographic record which eventually numbered more than four thousand negatives. His initial success came as an illustrator. In 1905, one of his paintings was reproduced on the cover of "Field and Stream" magazine. Soon he had other assignments for important magazines and illustrated books for successful authors such as Zane Grey. What artist wouldn't love that kind of publicity! Johnson continually made sketching trips to the West and Southwest. Eventually he established himself in California, but he also maintained a summer studio between Cody, Wyoming, and Yellowstone Park—a favorite locale for his paintings. One of his unique qualities as an artist was his ability to paint nocturnal scenes. Many of his canvases are illuminated only by moonlight and starlight. Look carefully at the "nocturne paintings" in the collection below; what techniques and colors do you think Johnson used to create those shadows-in-the-moonlight? Add your comments below!

A Buffalo Bill Center of the West Virtual Exhibit
Curated by: Marg2309


Cowboy on Horseba...
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Pain...
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9.72 | H: 16 in, width: 12 in, Frame height: 18.125 in, Frame width: 14.125 in | Cowboy on Horseback (night) | back of frame: U.C.(upside down); dark mat . blue paper dot: 9 | probably an unfinished sketch | not signed, not dated | 9.72.jpg | Landscape | horse | night | Cowboy | Painting | oil on board | Johnson, Frank Tenney

Down the Moonlit ...
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Pain...
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110.67 | 1938 | H: 15.875 in, width: 12 in, Frame height: 21.125 x 18.325 in, Frame width: 17 x 14.325 in, frame depth: 1 in | Down the Moonlit Trail | Gift of William F. Davidson by exchange and Clara S. Peck Fund | LL: F. Tenney Johnson N A 1938; Verso: Down the Moonlit Trail/F Tenney Johnson N.A./1938 | Book: By the Light of the Moon: The Paintings of Ray Ellis; Essay by Valerie Ann Leeds, Ph.D, Compass Publishing, Savannah, 2007, page 11 | 110.67.jpg | 110.67.JPG | Figure | Cowboy | Painting | oil on board | Johnson, Frank Tenney

Navajo by Moonlig...
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Pain...
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19.99 | H: 11 in, width: 8 in, Frame height: 22 in, Frame width: 19 in | Navajo by Moonlight or Night in the Canyon | Gift of Richard and Helen Cashman | Johnson was fascinated with the effects of moonlight and became known for his nocturnes, paintings of night scenes. He experimented with the way that moonlight softened details and affected colors, but he remained a realist in the depiction of figures and landscape. | verso, written at top: "Night in the Canyon" FTJ [partial label, torn off:] Gallery W (torn)/ 18 (superscript and underlined) th AND 19 (superscript and underlined) th CENTURY PAINTINGS AND B (torn)/ AVENUE & STETSON DRIVE, SCOTTSDALE, A (torn)/ JAMES S. FOWLER, Sr., FOUNDER/ PHONE (602) 944-5453 /ARTIST Frank Tenny John (torn)/ TITLE Navajo by Moonli (torn)/ SIGNED /SIZE AND (torn) [label taped at center:] RICHARD J. CASHMAN/ 57 GROVELAND TERRACE/ MINNEAPOLS, MINNESOTA 55403/ (line)/ PHONE: (612) 374-3378 [label, LLC:] C.M. Russell/ Museum (logo) 1201 4TH AVENUE NORTH/ GREAT FALLS, MONT./ PHONE (406) 452-7369/ Loan No 362/ Loan by Jack F. Warden/ Address/ Date Dec 29, 1977/ Exhibition/ Navajo by Moonlight F.T. Johnson | LLC: Frank Tenney Johnson | 19.99.jpg | 19.99.jpg | moon | night | Navajo | Painting | oil on canvas | Johnson, Frank Tenney

Cove in Yellowsto...
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Pain...
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2.82 | 1938 | H: 30 in, width: 40 in, Frame height: 34.75 in, Frame width: 44.75 in, frame depth: 2 in | Cove in Yellowstone Park | Gift of Fred and Sara Machetanz | From 1931 to 1938, Johnson spent his summers at the Rimrock Ranch, approximately thirty miles east of Yellowstone National Park. From the ranch, Johnson would hike up the canyons along the rivers, pack into the mountains, and camp in Yellowstone to explore, sketch, and paint. Cove in Yellowstone Park, from one of his painting excursions, is probably unfinished. Using broad, loose brush strokes, Johnson worked quickly to render a glimpse of the park's beauty. | Unsigned by artist; Label on reverse signed by Mrs. F.T. Johnson 1938 | Exhibit catalog: Drawn to Yellowstone, Artists in America's First National Park, by Peter H. Hassrick, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2002, exhibit at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Los Angeles, page 202 | 2.82.jpg | 2.82.JPG | 2.82.jpg | 2.82.web.jpg | Figure | Landscape | Animal | Painting | oil on canvas | Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939) Cove in Yellowstone Park 1938, oil on canvas Gift of Fred and Sara Machetanz, 2.82 | Johnson, Frank Tenney

Cowboy on Horseba...
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Pain...
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10.72 | H: 20.125 in, width: 24.5 in, Frame height: 26.25 in, Frame width: 30.125 in | Cowboy on Horseback (day) | This unfinished painting reveals Johnson's late style when he applied paint in thick, block-like strokes. | 10.72.jpg | 10.72.jpg | Cowboy | Figure | Painting | oil on board | Johnson, Frank Tenney

Sheep Wagon
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Pain...
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8.72 | 1931-1938 | H: 36.125 in, width: 28.125 in, Frame height: 43.875 in, Frame width: 35.875 in | Sheep Wagon | Museum Purchase | The lone sheep wagon: a silent sentinel to the sheepherder who would have left this home to spend the day in the hills watching his flock. The Historical Center has a Wyoming sheep wagon on exhibit in the Buffalo Bill Museum where one may interpret a herder's lonely life. | 8.72.JPG | 8.72.jpg | Painting | oil on canvas | Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939) Sheep Wagon ca. 1931-1938, oil on canvas Museum Purchase The lone sheep wagon: a silent sentinel to the sheepherder who would have left this home to spend the day in the hills watching his flock. Johnson depicts sheepherder's wagon which was used for shelter and cooking food. What encounters may a sheepherder experience while tending his flock? 8.72 | Johnson, Frank Tenney

Teddy Roosevelt -...
Johnson, Frank Tenney | Prin...
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72.72.80 | H: 6.125 in, width: 6.125 in, Sheet height: 11.375 in, Sheet width: 9 in | Teddy Roosevelt - Cattle Rancher | LLC: Frank Tenney Johnson. Top center: Zeese-Wilkinson Co./213-217 E. 24th Street/New York. | 72.72.80.jpg | 72.72.80.JPG | Animal | Landscape | Figure | Print | color print | Johnson, Frank Tenney