American, 1891 - 1982
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Robert Torchia, “Raymond Jonson,” NGA Online Editions, https://purl.org/nga/collection/constituent/6610 (accessed June 18, 2021).
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|Aug 15, 2018 Version|
Carl Raymond Johnson (later known as just Raymond Jonson) was born on July 18, 1891, in Chariton, Iowa. Jonson’s parents were immigrants from Sweden. The family moved throughout the West and Midwest for Jonson’s father’s work as a Baptist minister, eventually settling in Portland, Oregon, in 1902. In 1909 Jonson became the first pupil to enroll in the newly established Museum Art School of the Portland Art Association, where he studied with Kate Cameron Simmons, a former student of
From 1912 to 1917 he was the lighting, stage set, costume, and graphics designer for the experimental Chicago Little Theatre. Jonson gained an international reputation for his minimal theater designs and the invention of a nine-switch dimmer board that dramatized lighting effects. In 1916 he married Vera White, a secretary for the theater. Jonson, who had made trips to the West to draw and paint since 1914, became disillusioned with urban life and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1924. This marked the end of Jonson’s career in theater.
In New Mexico Jonson tirelessly advocated modernism through teaching and organizing exhibitions. He painted increasingly abstract landscapes in New Mexico until he developed a signature geometric style. In 1934, supported by a Works Progress Administration grant, he painted six large murals for the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and began to teach there part-time. In 1938 he founded the Transcendental Painting Group of abstract artists; among other members were
Throughout his career Jonson devoted himself to a quasi-mystical goal of achieving visual harmony through what he called the design or “unifying principle,” in which a successful painting embodied his emotional, intellectual, and physical experiences and exhibited a high degree of craftsmanship. Instinct and intuition played major roles in his creative process. He believed that the attainment of this ideal was possible only through abstraction. Jonson was strongly influenced by the art and writings of
August 17, 2018