VERN GROSVENOR SWANSON
Swanson is now a trustee and representative of the prestigious Art Renewal Center, New Jersey, the world’s largest visual fine art website. He was born in the small saw-mill and orchard town of Central Point in southern Oregon in 1945 to working-class parents, Oscar and Mildred Grosvenor Swanson. The youngest of six children he became interested in art by the third grade and studied art during high school. In 1964 he attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah on a football scholarship and majoring in fine art painting and drawing (average artist). Upon graduating in 1969 he moved to Washington D. C. where he worked at the National Gallery of Art for a year as a Museum Aide Supervisor in charge of their museum store.
Swanson returned to Utah to take a position directing an art sales gallery first in Salt Lake City, then in Provo. In Provo he met his wife Elaine Milne, a BYU student from Canada and married in the Cardston Alberta Temple. He later worked a year at a sales gallery of California art in San Francisco, and then moved to Calgary, Alberta where Vern worked construction for his father-in-law and coached semi-pro football. After a year they returned to Salt Lake City where he began a master’s degree in art history at the University of Utah working under his mentor, Dr. Robert S. Olpin.
After graduation in 1973 he was hired by Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama as an Assistant Professor of art and art history and director of their American art collection and gallery. There he became a popular teacher. After the tragic automobile deaths of his wife and young son Brett in April of 1975 he taught another year. After three years of teaching, he returned to Utah in the summer of 1976 met Judy Nielson of the tiny high desert town of Lyndyl, Utah and married that December. They had two daughters who are now married with children; Amber and Ryan Mendenhall and one grandchild and Angela and Jason Jones and three grandchildren.
Vern enrolled at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London in England in 1978 and later received his PhD in art history. He has since authored or co-authored seventeen books on art history, including two on British classical artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912); one on classical painter John William Godward (1861-1922); four on Russian/Soviet art including Soviet Impressionist Painting; eight on Utah art; a religious tome, Dynasty of the Holy Grail; and one on BYU football. He has twice been given the Utah Governor’s Award for the Arts. In 2013 he won the Putin Prize for Friend of Russian Art: Given in honor of Arkadi Plastov. He accepted the award because Arkadi Plastov is his favorite Russian artist in terms of integrity and aesthetics.
Utah’s oldest and most beautiful art museum, the Springville Museum of Art hired him to be their director in August of 1980 where he served with distinction for thirty-two years before retiring in August of 2012. During his tenure he helped to articulate its mission/vision, supporting objectives and standards, quadrupled the size of the permanent art collection (mostly of Utah and Soviet art), doubled the size of the facilities with a new wing and sculpture garden, and increased the staff size and over all professionalism.
He has now retired to his little Parnassus along the fabled Hobble Creek in Springville to garden with his wonderful wife, write books on art (classical and naturalist realism), religion (LDS in-depth theology) and politics (golden-mean conservative Republican), and to be with his family, especially grandchildren as much as possible. He continues to volunteer (art committee member) at the Springville Museum of Art and to consult for the world’s major art auction houses and nineteenth century European and Soviet art collectors. He also loves to be with friends, tell jokes, to travel, and sports.
Swanson’s motto’s are, “Give more than you get and be thankful for what you have,” “Treat everybody as though your life depended upon them,” “Only the mediocre are always at their best,” and “Failure is never final and success is never ending.” Others are, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the veneration of a flame,”
His four word mission for life is, “Verdancy, Rusticity, Quality and Nobility.” By verdancy he means newness, progress and growth; rusticity to him means a love of tradition and graceful aging; quality means excellence in one’s life and endeavors; while nobility means that fineness of spirit that required life was to be lived with awe and a purity before our fellow men, this world, and most of all Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.