Born in Montreal, John Little studied for two years at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under Goodridge Roberts and Arthur Lismer. He then went to New York to continue his studies at the Art Students’ League under Will Barnet and Frank J. Reilley. On his return to Montreal in 1951, Little joined his father’s architectural firm, Luke & Little, where he worked as a draughtsman. In 1953 he began to pursue painting full time. Little’s interest in architecture was an integral part of his painting, and he had a great affection for Montreal’s historic buildings and neighbourhoods. Over time, such neighbourhoods were subject to the ravages of change, and Little’s paintings preserved their memory. He has an extraordinary ability to capture winter light and palpable cold, contrasted with the warmth and character of the neighbourhood and its people. His depictions of Montreal brought him early acclaim, and he exhibited with Montreal’s prestigious Watson Art Galleries. His 1957 exhibition brought praise from the Montreal Gazette for his vision of the city. In commenting on a 1964 exhibition of his work, Dorothy Pfeiffer wrote in the Gazette: “Those bemoaning the seemingly ruthless demolition of hundreds of Montreal’s gracious old-world homes and other buildings…will gain nostalgic pleasure from John Little’s show, for he has dedicated his paintings to the preservation of such items for posterity.”
Little became an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1961. His work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and Sir George Williams University.