Frank Tenny JOHNSON (born June 26, 1874, near Big Grove [now Oakland], Iowa–died January 1, 1939, Los Angeles, California) was born in western Iowa, not far from Overland Trail. During his childhood, he saw the steady stream of people heading west. This early exposure to the American West was critical in leading Johnson towards the Western landscape as an inspiration for his work. At the age of ten, Johnson moved from Iowa to Milwaukee, where he began a apprenticeship with F.W. Heine, a prominent panoramic painter. After a year with Heine, Johnson apprenticed for Richard Lorenz, a painter who specialized in depictions of horses and western scenes. Johnson later went on to study at the Art Students in New York, and traveled to New Mexico shortly after. In New Mexico, he observed the Navajos and their threatened way of life. Some say Johnson's trip to New Mexico is where he developed into a truly western artist.
Johnson focused on scenes depicting horses, he painted a great number of pieces that featured horses outside of saloons, inns or trading posts, the moonlit night punctuated by the warm glow from the lamps inside. In this style, he can be considered a pioneer, as his night pieces still serve as the archetype western nocturnes. Johnson's work is a moody and romantic depiction of a long-gone America, rendered in a style that has become nearly a genre all its own.