Born: Eureka, California 1875
Died: Palm Springs, California 1974
Desert landscape painter, illustrator, cartoonist, “the Dean of Desert Artists.”
Swinnerton was raised in the Santa Clara valley by his grandparents, after his mother died. His grandfather had been successful in the Gold Rush. His father was a newspaper editor and judge. At 16, he enrolled in the San Francisco Art Association Art School, the pupil of W. Keith and E. Carlsen. His talent for caricature led him to become newspaper cartoonist for William Randolph Hearst. His comic strip in 1892 was among the first. When he moved to New York City with Hearst, “he was making and spending large sums of money. He lived a gay, full, and fast life.” His comic strips were “Little Jimmy” and “Little Tiger.” At 28, however, he collapsed from tuberculosis and was sent to Colton, California to recuperate.
From 1903 on, Swinnerton was a painter of the desert landscape. In the beginning, the collectors rejected his paintings because the scene was not the stereotyped wasteland of the Sahara. Swinnerton persisted. As he recovered physically, he explored unfamiliar regions of New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Utah. In 1907, his subjects became favorites, including the Grand Canyon and the Indians. Good Housekeeping magazine printed his “Canyon Kiddies.” Over the years, Swinnerton has been friend of other Western artists like Borein and Carl Eytell, and the inspiration of younger artists like McGrew, George Marks, and Bill Bender.
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing