Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bruce Johnson, Canadian Illustrator

Here's a wonderful early '60s illustration by Canadian illustrator Bruce Johnson.


Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information available about him. Here's what I managed to piece together...

Bruce Henderson Johnson was born in Toronto in 1926. During the 1950s, he was a regular contributor to Maclean's magazine (and no doubt many other Canadian publications).


Johnson often produced intriguing, experimental pieces which earned him the respect and admiration of his peers. Some years back, when I first mentioned Bruce Johnson to Tom McNeely and Will Davies, both artists spoke glowingly of his work - although they never knew him personally.


As you can see from several of the examples presented here, he was capable of producing literal (or 'realistic') art...


... but often chose to stylize his work.


In the 1960 Toronto Art Directors Club Annual I found Johnson listed as a member, suggesting he worked in Toronto until the early '60s.


Ss we can see from this Saturday Evening Post illustration below, which was included in the 1965 Canadian Art Director's Annual, he managed to get some work published in the U.S. - a big (and relatively rare) accomplishment for a Canadian illustrator at that time.


Because he produced hundreds of illustrations for the Montreal Star and Weekend magazines from the mid-'60s to the late '70s, it's very likely that Johnson lived in or near Montreal during the middle part of his career. (In those days, most artists lived close to where the majority of their work was being published).


"Most of the drawings pertain to social life and customs, street scenes and cityscapes relating to Montreal and vicinity," according to Library and Archives Canada, which has possession of Bruce Johnson's originals from this period.

Johnson returned to Ontario in his later years. He died in Port Hope, Ontario in 1996.


  1. All this and he played keyboards in the Beach Boys! Wow.
    Seriously,love his pen work, he could really draw.

  2. Very cool. I have admired his work for a long time. Didn't know his stuff ended up at LAC - rather unusual; I'll have to go see it. A lot of Cahén influence here :-) but definitely with his own spin on it.

  3. Hi I thought this was very impressive of you writing about my father! He is missed! It is good to know his work is still admired.

    1. Anonymous3:36 PM

      Hi there, I recently aquired a great piece your father did. I'd like to know more about his work. Can you contact me?

  4. I have a print of his and I can't find it anywhere online? It's a drawing of worn down house in Bonshaw near PEI. It's a worn down house, windows smashed out etc, but a typical warm and delightful rural house from years ago. I love the print but I can't find it anywhere online to verify it. Anyone know of what I am talking about??

  5. Anonymous12:26 PM

    For a good representation of Bruce' s drawings in the Montreal Star between 1966 & 1979, see his book " Montreal/Souvenirs" published in Canada in 1979 by Tundra Books of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G3. IBSN 0-88776-117-8, Legal Deposit, Third Quarter, Quebec National Library.

  6. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Front and back inside flaps of dust cover for "Montreal/Souvenirs" book contain good bio info. for Bruce Johnson.

  7. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Canadian Heritage Information Network (Artists in Canada) has biography of Bruce Johnson.

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