Jane Johnson (born 1951) As a sensitive illustrator and writer of children’s books, Jane Johnson has ranged between detailed recreations of the past and a juvenile perspective of the present.
Jane Johnson was born in London, and studied French at the University of East Anglia, graduating in 1973. She then worked as a designer of children’s books, first for Hodder & Stoughton (1974-76), and subsequently for Jonathan Cape Ltd (1976-81). In her spare time, she developed her talents as a writer and illustrator, producing lithographs for The Folio Society’s edition of Serghei Aksakov’s A Russian Gentleman (1976). Her own first book, Sybil and the Blue Rabbit (1980), won the Owl Prize in Japan and runner-up for the Mother Goose Award. The success of the following, Bertie on the Beach (1981), encouraged her to become a full-time illustrator – of books, magazines and greetings cards.
She was a part-time teacher of illustration at art schools in London (1983-85), and a sometime member of the Association of Illustrators.
Johnson proved to be a sensitive and versatile artist, able to draw on a variety of visual styles in order to appeal to a range of juvenile audiences. Yet she sustained a desire to communicate her own pleasure in the historical past. While living in Washington DC between 1989 and 1995, she produced The Princess and the Painter (1994), set in the time of Velásquez, and My Dear Noel: The Story of a Letter from Beatrix Potter (1999).
From the mid 1990s, Johnson concentrated on a contemporary style of books for very young children with a focus on strong, accessible images (as in Tiger, 2002). More recent projects have seen Johnson move successfully from illustrating to writing, in providing texts for Gaby Hansen’s illustrations, in Are You Ready for Bed? (2002) and Little Bunny’s Bathtime! (2005). She is currently enjoying a life of semi-retirement in London.
The Chris Beetles Gallery mounted two exhibitions of her work in 1986 and 1990.