Frank Tenney Johnson was born on a ranch near Council Bluffs on the Missouri River. At the age of fourteen he ran away from home to apprentice himself to the panoramic painter F.W. Heinie in Milwaukee. Johnson later studied under the tutelage of the former Texas ranger Richard Lorenz. He began his art career painting portraits and as a staff member of the Milwaukee newspaper. In 1902 he left for New York City to study at the famed Art Students League with Henri, Chase, Kenneth Hayes Miller and Mora. During that time he worked as a fashion and newspaper artist. In 1904, Johnson spent the summer on a ranch in Hayden, Colorado, observing cowboy life and working as a highly successful illustrator of the Zane Grey books of the West. In 1920 he followed his friend Clyde Forsyth to Alhambra, California where they shared a studio together. This studio became a meeting place for many of the leading Western artists of the day including C.M. Russell, Edward Borein, Norman Rockwell and Dean Cornwell. Johnson's "moonlight" technique of painting Western scenes was nationally famous when he died at the height of his career. It is said that he died from spinal meningitis probably contracted from a kiss.