Visionary Modern: Raymond Jonson Trilogies, Cycles, and Portraits surveys the long career of Raymond Jonson (1891 – 1982), one of New Mexico’s leading abstract painters of the twentieth century and a former educator at the University of New Mexico.
Light – A Trilogy, Raymond Jonson, 1966. Acrylic on Masonite. 82.221.0499.
Visionary Modern includes fourteen trilogies and cycles, each containing three paintings, that were made between 1918-1973. Jonson embraced the notion that the sum is greater than its parts, creating multi-canvas works because he believed a single painting could not do justice to vast subjects like the Grand Canyon, love, or the human life cycle. The exhibition also reflects Jonson’s transformation as a painter of recognizable subjects to a master of non-objective abstraction. His subject matter shifted from dramatic landscapes and portraits to the depiction of his spiritual concerns and preoccupation with time, rhythm, balance, and energy. Overall, Jonson’s expansive body of work celebrates abstract art’s potential to communicate both deep emotions as well as conceptual themes.
Time Cycle, Raymond Jonson, 1930. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Raymond Jonson, Raymond Jonson Collection, 82.221.1900.
“Trilogy” and “cycle” are words Jonson used for what is commonly known as “triptychs.” He painted sixteen trilogies in all, beginning with the majestic jewel-toned, Grand Canyon Trilogy – First, Second, and Third Movement (1927). More than half of Jonson’s trilogies were made during the 1930s, marking a profoundly productive time in the studio. From 1930-1970, the artist made a cycle at the start of each new decade to summarize the evolution of his ideas and techniques. Time Cycle (1930) is Jonson’s first cycle and announces his transition to non-objective abstraction.
The Sailor (Eric Johan Smith), Raymond Jonson, 1919. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Raymond Jonson, Raymond Jonson Collection, 82.221.0661.
Violet Light (The Artist’s Wife, Vera), Raymond Jonson, 1918. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Raymond Jonson, Raymond Jonson Collection, 82.221.0028.
The portraits comprise the earliest paintings in Visionary Modern. Jonson had personal relationships with his subjects and preferred to call his portraits “characterizations,” signaling his desire to convey the inner character of his subjects. The six featured portraits are exceptional examples of Jonson’s representational style.
The works in Visionary Modern: Raymond Jonson Trilogies, Cycles, and Portraits were selected from UNM Art Museum’s Raymond Jonson Retrospective Collection, which includes over 600 paintings, drawings, and prints. It is the world’s largest repository of Jonson’s work. In an effort to continue Jonson’s legacy, the UNM Art Museum is launching the Raymond Jonson Web Portal. This online resource documents Jonson’s life and career and is richly illustrated with personal snapshots, journal entries, and images of his artwork. We invite you to explore the Raymond Jonson Web Portal.