Born on the Iowa prairies, June 26, 1874 in Big Grove, Iowa and in 1888 his family moved back to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin where he attended Oconomowoc High School. While in High School he visited the Layton Art Gallery in Milwaukee, the paintings in the gallery made him determined to pursue a successful art career.
In 1892 Johnson studied and apprenticed under Frederich Wilhelm Heine at the F.W. Heine Studio for one year. He also studied Western painting under Richard Lorenz in Milwaukee while working for Marr & Richards Engraving Company doing free lance line drawings and watercolor jobs to earn money.
1895, Johnson went to New York and attended the Art Student's League, NYC and studied under John Henry Twatchmsn. In 1896, Johnson returned to Milwaukee and worked at Mandel Engraving Co.and later that year married Vinnie Reeves Francis in West Allis, WI.
His visits to South Dakota, Indian country produced paintings of the Indians that were exhibited at the Iverson Gallery in Milw. Around 1902-03 Frank & Vinnie had saved enough money for Frank to go to New York and study at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri and William Merrit Chase. He did illustration work in New York for the Winchester Manufacturing Company and Field & Stream Magazine.
By 1904, F T Johnson went to Colorado's cattle & Indian country; this trip shaped his future career. While he was on this trip Vinnie agreed to return to Milwaukee and stay with his parents. Upon returning to New York Johnson continued to do illustrations for Field & Stream to repay the money they gave him for passage on his trip West to Colorado. He also did illustrations for Cosmopolitan, Harper's Monthly and Harper's Weekly. Frank Tenney Johnson died of spinal meningitis January 1, 1939 in California, he was 64 years old Vinnie Reeves Francis Johnson died December 11, 1956 at 80 years old.