FRANK HANS JOHNSTON, O.S.A., A.R.C.A.
oil on board
signed; also signed and titled on the reverse
16 ins x 20 ins; 40.6 cms x 50.8 cms
A 1934 exhibition review in the Toronto Telegram reads: “One does not need to be told of a Johnston canvas “that it is a cold lonely road. The light is failing. The night is near. The whispering wind is the only sound in silence so deep that even one’s breath can be heard.” One knows inevitably in looking at a picture by him he meant to tell you these things”.” Indeed, Johnston was an ardent chronicler of the Canadian landscape, and rather than follow the current artistic trends, he painted what he saw, as he saw it.
Franz Johnston’s (1888-1949) decorative and more delicate leanings can be seen in the painting Northern Spring. The fluffy white clouds in the background add charm and lightheartedness to the work, a sentiment which is contrasted by the dark shadowed trees on the right. Through careful perspectival arrangement, Johnston suggests the moment of transformation between winter and spring, when the earth begins to slowly warm, cathartically shedding the weight and melancholy of those long cold months of winter.
Roger Burford Mason, A Grand Eye for Glory: A Life of Franz Johnston, Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1998.
Marilyn Baker, The Winnipeg School of Art: The Early Years, University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, 1984.
Private Collection, Toronto