FRANK HANS JOHNSTON, O.S.A., A.R.C.A.
THE OPAL POOL
oil on masonite
24.5 ins x 29.5 ins; 62.2 cms x 74.9 cms
Frank Hans Johnston (1888-1949) was a versatile and prolific painter whose landscapes have shaped our collective imagination of what constitutes the canon of early 20th century Canadian painting. Johnston was academically trained and worked for a time as a commercial artist at the Toronto based design firm, Grip Limited, where he met a number of other artists with whom he would go on to form the Group of Seven in 1920. While he would soon break from the Group, his dedication to the natural landscape grew out of the shared experiences and wilderness expeditions in those early years of burgeoning nationalism and modernism in Canada.
His vast body of work demonstrates an array of artistic styles but largely favours a more decorative aesthetic, though never without depth or a keen eye for detail. This is evidenced in the painting The Opal Pool, where Johnston’s careful play of light and shadow evokes the setting sun and the silent and enduring beauty of a forest river. The precise depiction of perspective and snow, two notoriously difficult elements to paint well, are the result of excellent academic training undertaken by Johnston.
Winter in Canada is long and lingering, but Johnston manages to transform this bleak season into one of imagination, invitation and even nostalgia for the carefree days of childhood adventures in the great outdoors.
Roger Burford Mason, A Grand Eye for Glory: A Life of Franz Johnston, Dundurn Press, Toronto and Oxford, 1998, page 11.
Private Collection, Calgary