“Ultimately, a good painting should be at home anywhere.”
When Johnson passed at the age of 84 in 1999, he was remembered both for his talent as a commercial artist and as a fine artist. In 1991, he had a solo show in Havensight, St. Thomas. His artistic process demanded one ultimate goal from himself, whether he was painting the harbors of the east coast or those of the West Indies. He once explained that each painting “might depict a particular era and region, but should transcend time and place. Ultimately, a good painting should be at home anywhere.”
During World War II, he designed training manuals, at times standing behind dive-bomber pilots to get accurate photographs of approaches to the target. His paintings of the U. S. Air Force Berlin Airlift and Strategic Air Command operations in Spain hang in the Pentagon and Air Force Academy.
Johnson’s art education included the American Academy of Art in Chicago and the Art Students’ League. He was a life member of both the League and the Society of Illustrators. He was shown regularly in the American Watercolor Society and the Grand Central Gallery shows.
As a senior executive for J. Walter Thompson and Lennen and Newell Advertising Agencies in the late 1950s and 1960, the globe-trotting Johnson supervised the creation of advertising for Pan American, Iberia, and American Airlines among others. Sojourns to the Caribbean gave him time to sail and paint.
In the late sixties, the government of the U.S. Virgin islands commissioned him to design a chess set of Caribbean figures. One set was created for the artist, and one set was presented to then President Richard M. Nixon on the occasion of his official visit to St. Thomas and St. John in 1971.
Johnson painted in oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, watercolor and gouache on paper. An avid sailor, he loved seascapes. He enjoyed painting islanders at work and play. His return to the islands in the early 90s inspired him to create an extensive series of paintings.