Cecile Johnson embraced the “plein air” tradition of artists who left their studios for the “open air” and painted in natural settings directly from nature. Painting out in the open, natural landscape remained at the core of Cecile Johnson’s art throughout her career. She undertook decades of travel to paint landscapes in remarkable locations [1]. Her travels across North America included painting not only in the west: the Rocky Mountains, Napa Valley, the California coast, Colorado and the Southwest, but also the Adirondacks, the hills and landscapes of New England, the Midwest, as well as Mexico and the Laurentian mountains in Canada. She applied the same approach to painting rugged urban landscapes of highways and skylines as she did to America’s natural beauty. She would put up her easel as easily on a street corner or in the bridge tender’s tower over the busy Chicago River as next to a rushing brook or on the slope of a snowy mountain.

Cecile Johnson painting from the mountain slope.

KT-22, California

Her mastery of mountain landscapes as well as her indominatable spirit led to a commission from Skiing Magazine to paint the “Memorable Mountains” of the United States. She executed a series of 42 paintings not from photographs but on the frozen slopes of rugged mountains, sometimes at 10,000 feet or more, giving a hardier meaning to the term, “plein air.”

Image by Charles Westen of Cecile painting near her home in Central Park, New York.

"End of Voyage" Cape Cod, Massachusetts

  • [1] Cecile Johnson: Have Brush, Will Travel. American Artist, Jan 1983: Vol 47: Issue 486, 58-61, 88-92.
Cecile & Philip Johnson Foundation 
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