George A. Swanson (American 1908-1968)

Introduction

George Alan Swanson, a native of Bloomfield, New Jersey, achieved international success as an artist. For nearly a decade (beginning in 1934) he accompanied Dr. William Beebe, Director of the Department of Tropical Research of the New York Zoological Society, on expeditions to South America and Bermuda as the official artist and illustrator. Dr. Beebe was among the first scientists to discover and document deep-sea life, reaching unprecedented depths one-half mile deep. On the expeditions Swanson illustrated the colorful and varied species of flora, fauna and sea-life discovered using Beebe’s famous bathysphere and on deep-sea dives.

Back in the states, Swanson’s botanical illustrations and watercolors inspired by travels abroad attracted favorable reviews. He found joy as an artist in figural subjects and landscapes. He achieved particular success painting the dancers of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Ballet Theatre. When he left to join the war effort, 50 of his Ballet Russe paintings entered the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He admired the work of Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and exhibited with contemporaries including Joseph Stella, George Luks, Jules Pascin, Raphael Soyer and John R. Grabach. His sensitive and sensuous portraits of male figures allude to his own sexuality. As noted by a critic in a review of his figurative works, “Spiritual autobiography holds aloft its candle in George Alan Swanson’s art… Few artists approach the masculine figure with such lustiness, and this vigor is doubtless his most important attribute as artist. Without it he would not be distinguished.” Read the full biography here.

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