Frank Tenney Johnson's 1904 visit to the Indian community of Manuelita, about twenty five miles from Gallup, New Mexico, had a long lasting impact on the artist. He wrote in a letter to his wife: "There is a fine old picturesque trading post here, where the Navajos are constantly coming and going, particularly at night. They do a lot of their traveling across the desert at night, to avoid the intense desert heat during the daytime. But seeing these people in the moonlight or even the magic light of just the stars has impressed me very deeply" (Harold McCracken, The Frank Tenney Johnson Book, Garden City, New York, 1974, p. 94).
Nocturnal subjects like Time to Wake the Cook became a continual theme of Johnson's work from the early years of his career until his death in 1939. The present work dates from the latter part of his career when Johnson was at the height of his popularity. His technique of balancing the density of color in the landscape and figures in the light of the moon became his signature style, widely known as "the Johnson moonlight technique."
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