Discipline: Visual Art – painting

C. Raymond Jonson

Discipline: Visual Art – painting
Region: Albuquerque, NM
MacDowell Fellowships: 1919, 1920

C. Raymond Jonson (1891–1982) was an American-born Modernist painter known for his paintings of the American Southwest. Born Carl Raymond Johnson, he originally signed his paintings C. Raymond Johnson, but later used Raymond Jonson, dropping the first initial and reverting to a more traditional spelling of his last name. He was born in Chariton, Iowa in 1891, one of six children of Reverend Gustav Johnson and Josephine Abrahamson Johnson. The family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1902, where he attended Lincoln High School and the Museum Art School. At 20, Jonson attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Later, he continued the development of his technical skills at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1913, Jonson was strongly affected by the avant-garde works displayed in the Armory Show, particularly the works of Wassily Kandinsky. Between 1913 and 1920, Jonson worked as the graphic art director of the experimental Chicago Little Theater and taught at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1919, he received a fellowship to MacDowell in New Hampshire, which for the first time in his life allowed him to concentrate his full energies on painting for four months. Jonson went on to become secretary in Roerich's society Cor Ardens composed of the "fiery, spiritual, radical group of young painters" who shared Roerich's belief that "the only real fraternity among men is the fraternity of beauty as expressed in art."

In 1922, Jonson's life was changed when he visited New Mexico for the first time. The experiences and sights of this short visit to Santa Fe, convinced Jonson to permanently move to New Mexico in 1924 to focus on painting among the southwestern landscapes. In Santa Fe, Jonson started the Atalaya Art School and arranged for a "modern wing" in which he mounted monthly exhibitions by modern artists at the New Mexico Museum of Art from 1927-1931. Late in 1931, Jonson made an extended trip to New York where he exhibited at the Delphic Studios. In 1934, he began teaching art at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. With Willard Nash, he did a series of murals under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project and in 1938, he co-founded the Transcendental Painting Group with Emil Bisttram. Devoted to nonrepresentational painting, the aim of the Transcendental Painting Group was "to defend, validate and promote abstract art. They sought to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new expressions of space, color, light and design." The search for an artistic approach that went beyond descriptive realism concerned Jonson for most of his life. The group was forced to disband in 1942 due to World War II. The Jonson Gallery was established at the University of New Mexico in 1950. While teaching at the University of New Mexico in the early 1950s, Jonson had a profound influence on the Cochiti Pueblo artist Joe Herrera. Jonson retired from the University of New Mexico in 1954, but continued to mentor students there, including painter William Conger. The Jonson Gallery's collection was moved to the UNM Art Museum in 2010.



C. Raymond Jonson worked in the Adams studio.

Given to the MacDowell Association by Margaret Adams of Chicago, the half-timbered, stuccoed Adams Studio was designed by MacDowell Fellow and architect F. Tolles Chamberlin ca. 1914. Chamberlin was primarily a painter, but also provided designs for the Lodge and an early renovation of the main hall. The studio’s structural integrity was restored during a thorough renovation in…

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