Raymond Jonson’s Legacy at the University of New Mexico
Raymond Jonson’s legacy at the University of New Mexico is threefold: as an educator, a curator, and a living modernist mentor around whom a strong community of artists was built in Albuquerque.
Jonson taught for twenty years at the University of New Mexico, and continued to mentor students after his retirement. In the 1930s, his advanced drawing and painting students highly anticipated weekly critiques. His curriculum included the materials and techniques of painting as well as challenging theories and philosophies of spirituality, modernism, and non-objective art. Jonson was a demanding but kind and supportive teacher, securing studio and exhibition space for his students.
In January 1949, the university announced the creation of the Jonson Gallery and described it as “an art laboratory on the campus.” The gallery was built on campus opposite the university president Tom L. Popejoy’s home and included a studio and residence for Raymond Jonson and his wife, Vera. It opened in 1950 with an exhibition of Jonson’s own paintings. To establish a collection, the artist also donated 400 of his paintings dating from 1912 and fifty works by other prominent artists.
President Popejoy proclaimed that the Jonson Gallery and its programs of “visiting artists and roundtable discussions” would have a lasting effect on the city and state; he was correct. Jonson’s commitment to exhibiting and collecting works by the university’s students also contributed to the vital community of abstract artists living in Albuquerque in the 1950s and 60s.
Jonson’s contributions to teaching and the presence of the Jonson Gallery on campus make him a notable figure in the University of New Mexico’s history. As a visual representation of this legacy, Jonson’s WPA mural Cycles of Science is once again on public display at the university in the newly constructed Physics, Astronomy, and Interdisciplinary Sciences building.
After closing in 2008, the Jonson Gallery collection was moved to the University of New Mexico Art Museum, along with Jonson’s extensive archives and library. The archival resources digitized on this website, as well as additional correspondence, notes, and objects from Raymond Jonson’s life are available to researchers at the museum by appointment.
Additional Resources available at the University of New Mexico:
- Arthur Johnson’s papers at the Center for Southwest Research
- Vera Jonson Collection at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology