John-Franklin Koenig was an international artist, better known in Europe and Japan than in his native country. Born in Seattle in 1924, he grew up in the Wallingford neighborhood and became interested in art at a young age — particularly the Asian art he found at the Seattle Art Museum. Koenig was drafted into the army in 1943 and fought in Europe until the end of the war. Waiting to return to the U.S., he took a course at the university for American soldiers in Biarritz and fell in love with France and French.
Returning to the U.S. after the war, Koenig enrolled at the UW where he studied French and French literature. He studied design and art during that period as well, and discovered the Seattle art scene of Toby, Graves, and Anderson. On finishing his degree in 1948, John moved to Paris where he would live for the following 30 years. (From 1980 on he spent part of each year in Seattle in his Captial Hill home — a former Hare Krishna temple.) In Paris, he began working on collage and later paintings, inspired by European artists, and also by Oriental works he saw on nearly a dozen trips to Japan. Along with Jean-Marc Arnaud, he opened the Galerie Arnaud in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris.
In 1986, John Koenig received the Gold Medal of the City of Paris and was later made a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 1989, the Paris Arts Center held a retrospective of his work. His paintings and collages have been shown in nearly 150 solo exhibitions around the world and are part of collections in a number of international museums: e.g., the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée National d’Art Modern (Paris); the National Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Western Art (Tokyo); the Musée des Beaux-Arts and Musée d’Art Contemporain (Montreal); the Musée de l’État (Luxembourg); and the Seattle Art Museum.
Koenig returned to Seattle in 2006, where he died in January 2008 at the age of 83. The Museum of Northwest Art in Bellingham, WA held a retrospective of his work shortly after his death.
On display on the second floor of the Allen Center are two of Koenig’s works on paper, an early (1962) collage/painting and a more recent (1991) monotype/collage.