Born in Montreal, Quebec on February 20, 1928, John Little studied for two years at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under Dr. Arthur Lismer and Goodridge Roberts. In 1947, Little moved to New York City to attend the Art Students’ League under Will Barnet and Frank J. Reilley.
Having developed a confidently unique hand style and visual vocabulary, Little returned to Montreal in 1949 and became a draftsman for his father’s architectural firm, Luke & Little. Meanwhile, began attempting to do illustrations for the Montreal Star. This return home is what really ignited his regionalist approach to Quebec urban painting and defined his role as a great Canadian painter.
In 1953 he married Lorraine and turned exclusively to painting. Little was greatly aided by William Watson, a Montreal art dealer who took a great interest in the artist's characterizations of Montreal, Quebec City and the outlying regions of Quebec. With the support of Watson, Little garnered great national acclaim for his urban landscape paintings that are brilliantly literal and solid, clearly rooted in drawing techniques.
His urban landscapes were eloquently described by Dorothy Pfeiffer, who reviewed his work in 1964. She believed his work acted as an archival exercise that visually preserved the now demolished old world architecture in the heart of Montreal. His work has three major qualities, Dorothy writes, “assurance, individuality and artistic honesty." She went on to say, “Yet so spirited and relaxed is his painting technique, [Little’s] work can in no manner today be labelled as merely documentary. He paints city streets ankle-deep in slush, where his not-quite-ripe olive green mixture carpets pavements with a mélange resembling Quebec limestone.” Little’s plein air approach to urban landscapes recalls the famous landscape painters of Quebec such as Coburn, Hammond and Fortin, in a contemporary style, in turn, making him a quintessential figure in the extensive lineage of Quebec master painters.
In 1961 Little became an associate with the Royal Canadian Academy and his work has been collected by the National Museum of Canada, Concordia University, Beaverbrook Gallery as well as numerous of private collections. Little currently still lives and paints in Quebec.