JOHN AUGUST SWANSON was born January 11, 1938 in El Monte, California, and died September 23, 2021, in Los Angeles. He painted in oil, watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media, and was an independent printmaker of limited edition serigraphs, lithographs, etchings, and other prints.
His art reflected his strong heritage of storytelling, inherited from his Mexican mother and Swedish father. Swanson’s narratives are direct and easily understood. He addressed human values, cultural roots, and the quest for self-discovery through visual images. These include Bible stories and celebrations, circuses, concerts, and operas. He optimistically embraced life and spiritual transformation.
Swanson studied lettering and printmaking with Corita Kent in night classes at Immaculate Heart College. His style was detailed, complex, and elaborate. It was influenced by the imagery of Islamic and medieval miniatures and Russian iconography, the color of Latin American folk art, and the tradition of Mexican muralists.
As an artist, printer and serigrapher, Swanson oversaw all phases of the production of his original silkscreen prints. His hand-crafted serigraphs are printed in up to 89 colors of transparent and opaque inks, which overlap to create rich and detailed imagery. For each color printed, the artist drew a stencil on Mylar film. Each stencil was subsequently transferred to a silkscreen, which was used to print one color onto the serigraph edition. After many printings, the resulting serigraph is a matrix of richly overlaid colors, visually striking and technically masterful. Beginning in 2011, he began to created editions of archival Giclée print editions. Every print was carefully inspected and color-matched by the artist.
Swanson’s art is represented in the permanent collections of many museums, including: The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museums of American History, American Art, and Air and Space; his works are in the print collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University’s Fogg Museum, the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. His painting, The Procession, is displayed in the Vatican Museums’ Collection of Modern Religious Art.