Artwork of The Week: March 8
Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939), Indians on Horseback, 1937, oil on canvas. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of John H. and Jean S. Groberg, 2017.
Frank Tenney Johnson specialized in paintings of the Old West, particularly focusing on scenes of cowboys and Native Americans, frequently visiting the West to gather information for his paintings and eventually moving to Wyoming. He became known for his evocative nocturnal scenes, known as Johnson’s “moonlight technique.” During one visit to the Navajo in New Mexico, Johnson to wrote his wife: “Seeing this people in the moonlight or even the magic light of just stars has impressed me very deeply.” This painting suggests a moment before evening, with pink clouds and long shadows of a fleeting sunset, just as the moon emerges on the horizon.
Two Native people exchange a word as they move through the rocky landscape on horses, Rather than energetic scenes of drama and action, Johnson often preferred to capture quiet, peaceful scenes of daily life. This beautiful painting was recently gifted to the BYU Museum of Art by John H. and Jean S. Groberg and is currently on display in the exhibition From the Vault: Highlights from the MOA Collection.