Francis Hans Johnston, known as Frank and Franz in 1927, is a Canadian landscape artist born in Toronto (Ontario) on June 19, 1888, and he died there on July 19, 1949. Right after high school, he started as an apprentice jeweller with Ryrie Bros. and studied in the evenings at the Central Technical School as well as the Ontario College of Art under William Cruikshank, Gustav Hahn and G.A. Reid. Afterwards, he worked at the commercial art firm Grip Limited, where he met J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer and Franklin Carmichael, three future members of the Group of Seven. In 1910, after studying in Germany, he left for the United States to pursue his artistic training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. He then worked as a graphic designer at Carleton Studios in New York and in 1915, he came back to Toronto. He went on painting trips to Algonquin Park and Lake Superior where he tried to catch the interplay of light, colour and pattern of the woods in order to depict them in his artworks. Two years later, he was commissioned to paint the home front during the First World War for the Canadian War Memorials Fund. In May 1920, Johnston, together with six other painters, founded the Group of Seven, creating a truly Canadian movement. ‘’ It took us out into the open air to look at Canadian landscape as distinct from European landscape. It necessarily meant that each was free to look at the landscape which attracted him...". (Frank Johnston) Their first exhibition was held at the Grange Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) and several other independent exhibitions followed at the Eaton’s Canada Gallery. The first one was organized by Johnston and the press praised his exceptional treatment of light.
From 1921 to 1924, he worked as Principal of the Winnipeg School of Art (now the School of Art of the University of Manitoba) and Director of the Art Gallery. Back in Toronto, he undertook a teaching career at the Ontario School of Art (now the Ontario College of Art & Design) and ended his association with the Group of Seven. He kept painting, travelling to the Northwest Territories, namely, as well as to Northern Ontario, Québec City, Baie-Saint-Paul, some Laurentian villages and the Ottawa Valley. He was elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
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