Artist Profile

Eric Lee-Johnson

Born 1908, Died 1993

Born in Suva in 1908, Lee Johnson moved to New Zealand in 1912. From 1923 to 1926 he trained at the Elam School of Arts in Auckland and for the next few years was a commercial artist for Wilson and Horton. In 1930 he sailed for London where he worked in advertising and attended life classes at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts.

Returning to New Zealand, in 1939 he was elected a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts serving a term on the Committee of Management, National Art Gallery. His work from 1931-36 was influenced by contemporary German typography, graphics and poster design in Europe.

Lee-Johnson lived in various parts of New Zealand from 1942 to 1960 including Coromandel and the Hokianga, and his non-figurative abstracts date from this time. In the 1950's a series of his North New Zealand paintings and topographical drawings recording the architecture of some surviving early wooden buildings, set off a whole romantic movement in New Zealand art. Changes in the landscape, Pacific images and the inclusion of found objects such as shells and stones were themes running through his work throughout the 1960's and 70's. Lee-Johnson is represented in all major collections throughout the country, including all public galleries and the Hocken and Turnbull Libraries. A retrospective exhibition of his paintings and drawings toured New Zealand in 1981-82. He was made a life member of the Waihi Arts Centre that he co-founded in 1960.

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