Born in Iowa in 1891, Jonson grew up in Portland, Oregon. As a teenager, Jonson studied art at the Portland Museum School, and when he finished high school, went to Chicago with money saved from delivering newspapers. He took his formal art training at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under the great American painter B.J.O. Nordfeldt, and later at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Beginning in 1927, Jonson moved in the direction of schematic abstractions. By the late thirties Jonson had achieve a considerable body of works to which he felt he could apply the word “absolute”, in which the design concept had come to a complete realization. In 1938, in the city of Santa Fe, Bisttram and Raymond Jonson founded the Transcendental movement in New Mexico. The same year he began to use the airbrush in his work. There is nothing else like his airbrush paintings in this period of American art, and they represent a unique contribution to painting because of the successful combination of a modern mechanical device and an extraordinarily inventive imagination.
In his final years, Jonson proclaimed, “My life has been painting and painting has been my life.” Indeed his works have become a symbol of unity and order that express what the artist made of his life both in body and spirit.
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