About Raymond Jonson

Raymond Jonson (1891-1982) was a leader of the Transcendental Painting Group, an organization of artists formed in New Mexico in 1938. Devoted to nonrepresentational painting, the group aspired “to stimulate in others, through deep and spontaneous emotional experiences of form and color, a more intense participation in the life of the spirit. “The search for an artistic approach that went beyond descriptive realism concerned Jonson for most of his life. His early training, first at the school of the Portland Art Museum in 1909, and during the following three years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, provided a solid technical foundation from which he began more experimental work. When the 1913 Armory Show opened in Chicago, Jonson was especially impressed with Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings. Kandinsky’s book, On the Spiritual in Art, later provided a framework for Jonson’s own ideas about the spiritual purpose of painting.

Between 1913 and 1920, Jonson worked as the graphic art director of the experimental Chicago Little Theater and taught at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1919, he received a fellowship to the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, which for the first time in his life allowed him to concentrate his full energies on painting for four months. The real turning point in his career, however, came three years later, during a summer visit to Santa Fe. Fascinated with the land and with American Indian design, he resolved to return, and in 1924, moved permanently to New Mexico.

In the late 1920’s, the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe set aside a special exhibition alcove for a group of painters who were locally called “The Modernists.” Painter Raymond Jonson was among this group. A man who remained true to his singular artistic vision, Jonson has been called “A man of great industry and curiosity [who] has chosen an artistic path unique in New Mexico.”

One art critic wrote of him, “He has been a one-man task force for modern art isolated in New Mexico for more than forty years.” 

Ed Garman, Jonson’s biographer and close friend wrote, “To those who know him only through his art, Raymond Jonson stands for a particular kind of painting. To those who know him as a person his name stands for a particular way of life, a life which has been satisfying to Jonson and meaningful to others as an example of single-minded devotion to an ideal.”  

Raymond Jonson (1891-1982)

Synthesis Three, 1935

Oil on canvas

20h x 24w in • 50.80h x 60.96w cm

Jonson often referred to himself as an “evangelist” for modernist art in New Mexico and that “if our age leaves anything to posterity in art it will be the abstract.”

Raymond Jonson (1891-1982)
Untitled, 1937
Watercolor & casein on paper
20h x 29w in
50.80h x 73.66w cm

Raymond Jonson (1891-1982)
Watercolor No. 20, 1946
Watercolor on paper
22h x 30w in
55.88h x 76.20w cm