An original member of the renowned Group of Seven, Francis Hans Johnston (1888 – 1949), first commonly referred to as Frank and later as Franz, is well known for his paintings of the Canadian landscape. A successful artist whose work was generally better received by the public than that by his fellow painters, Johnston left the Group after their first official show in 1920 to pursue a career as a solo artist and art educator. During his life, he exerted influence through both his teaching and art practice.

While Johnston is recognized for his paintings, few people are aware of his interest in photography. In fact, the artist was an avid photographer who amassed a large collection of images, thousands of which are now held in private and public collections. They represent a variety of subject matter including, in large part, the Canadian landscape that he documented and celebrated in his artwork. 

The Photographs of Frank (Franz) Johnston represents an initial stage of research into the role of photography in Johnston’s art. Although he considered himself an amateur photographer who saw the medium as its own distinct art form, in many cases the images he captured served as visual aids for his paintings. Through a selection of Johnston’s photographs of the Canadian outdoors, some juxtaposed with related paintings from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the exhibition examines the relationship between the photograph as source imagery and the final painting. It offers insight into Johnston’s working method, how he perceived the world around him through the photograph, and how his paintings—which became more realistic over time—were influenced by photography.

Organized with the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.