Harvey W. Johnson came by his artistic talent naturally. His father was a noted sculptor, and his mother was an accomplished painter. Following in their footsteps, after World War II, Johnson studied at the Art Students League in New York City. He worked for many advertising studios and as an illustrator (often of frontier life) for many pulp magazines. For nineteen years, he was an instructor at the Famous Artists School in Connecticut (where he became friends with one of his artistic idols, Harold Von Schmidt). Finally, he devoted his artistic talents to interpreting the historic West, especially the era of the mountain men and the fur trade.
In 1966, while reading a copy of Western Horseman magazine, Johnson saw an article about a new organization that was forming, dedicated to the continuation of the Western art traditions of Remington and Russell. His query to Johnny Hampton about joining the group was answered with a quick response. “I not only got invited to join the group,” Johnson recalls, “but was asked to send along several paintings for an exhibition and sale that was just around the corner.” Johnson became a charter member of the Cowboy Artists of America. In 1976, he served as its vice president and in 1977 as president.
Harvey Johnson has been responsible for a number of “firsts” for the CAA. He was one of the first artists to apply for membership in the fledgling organization and participated in the first exhibition in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A stickler for detail, Johnson did extensive research for his illustrations and paintings. Throughout his lifetime, he collected artifacts from and books about Western history. He lived most of his life with his wife, Ilse, in Santa Fe, New Mexico in an adobe house overlooking the Santa Fe Trail–one of the first trade routes between Mexico and the United States.
Collections: The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western and Native American Art
CAA Member from 1966-2005
Born: April 9, 1921
Education: Art Students League, Studied under Trafton and Johnson