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James Guilford Swinnerton 1875 - 1974

James Swinnerton Portrait Photo James  Swinnerton, Smoke Tree Wash
Smoke tree wash
30 x 40
James Swinnerton, Yuma Desert  with gold Frame
"Yuma Desert", oil on canvas,
16 x 20
James Swinnerton, Desert Ironwood Sketch, Vintage Print
Desert Ironwood in Bloom
Salton Sea in Back
Vintage Print on canvas,
12 x 16

Known as the “the Dean of Desert Artists,” Swinnerton came to the desert, for his health, not by choice. He was a Californian, and attended the San Francisco Art Association Art School where he studied under William Keith and Emil Carlsen along with classmate Maynard Dixon.

Jimmy Swinnerton Pipe and Palette
Swinnerton with his Palette and Pipe from the January 1951 issue of
Arizona Highways Magazine.

His skills were noticed by a young William Randolph Hearst who brought Swinnerton to New York to work for his newspaper syndicate.

He penned two comic strips, "Little Jimmy," and "Little Tiger." But, in 1903 at age twenty-eight, he contracted tuberculosis, and for health reasons relocated to California, this time to the desert community of Colton.

From 1903 onward, Jimmy became konwn as a painter of the desert.

Will Rogers and Jimmy Swinnerton
American humorist, Will Rogers meeting
Jimmy Swinnerton. Photo is from
Painters of the Desert
by Ed Ainsworth, 1960
At first, his renditions were not accepted. Critics expected the vast wastelands of the Sahara, but Swinnerton persisted.

He explored the Southwest throughout New Mexico, Arizona (nine years before it became the 48th state), Utah, and California. His favored subjects included the Grand Canyon and portraits of American Indians. He even had a comic strip of Indian children called "Canyon Kiddies" which was published in Good Housekeeping Magazine.

Decades after Swinnerton, Jimmy drew "Little Jimmy" and the "Canyon Kiddies." These strips were made into animated cartoons. In 1936, "Little Jimmy" was a guest star in Max
Previously from our Newsletters regarding the life and work of Jimmy Swinnerton
Dominique Bertail Photo Thumbnail
French Cartoonist Dominique
Bertail's Thoughts on
Swinnerton's Desert
Jimmy Swinnerton Desert Magazine 1940
"Jimmy Swinnerton: Nature is
His Teacher"
by John W. Hilton,
Desert Magazine 1941
Jimmy Swinnerton Caracature Thumbnail
21 yr old Jimmy Swinnerton,
humorously portrayed,
The San Francisco
Feb. 21, 1896
Phippen Museum Remington Sculpture
Prescott, Arizona's
Phippen Museum
hosts a Jimmy Swinnerton
& Maynard Dixon Exhibition
James Swinnerton
Jimmy Swinnerton's
Little Jimmy & Canyon Kiddies
in Animated Cartoons

Fleischer's "Betty Boop." In the 1940's, Warner Brothers Looney Toons featured the "Canyon Kiddies" in an animated cartoon entitled Mighty Hunters. Swinnerton's provided paintings of the Grand Canyon which were used for the backdrops. View our article in Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Monthly, March, 2009, and you may find out more. At the time of the article, "YouTube" offered complete versions of both of these cartoons, but since they've been removed.

Jimmy was a friend to many western artists, and an inspiration and teacher for others. In The Man Who Painted Sunshine by Katherine Ainsworth, there is a description of one of many painting trek where John W. Hilton accompanied Jimmy Swinnerton on an enjoyable sketching trip to Monument Valley.

Sources: "The Man Who Painted Sunshine," by Katherine Ainsworth; AskArt; SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST, Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing; Arizona Highways Magazine, January issue, 1951.