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James Swinnerton Portrait Photo James Guilford Swinnerton 1875 - 1974

Known as the “the Dean of Desert Artists,” Swinnerton came to the desert 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.

James Swinnerton Smoke Tree Wash Midsized Thumbnail
Smoke tree wash
30 x 40
James Swinnerton Yuma Desert Midsized Thumbnail
"Yuma Desert"
16 x 20
James Swinnerton Wild Mustard California Coast Midsized Thumbnail
Oil Sketch "Wild Mustard
California Coast"
12 x 16
Jimmy Swinnerton Nevada Desert Near Hoover Dam Midsized Thumbnail
Oil Sketch "Nevada Desert
Near Hoover Dam"
12 x 16
James Swinnerton Desert Mistletoe Midsized Thumbnail
Oil Sketch of Desert Mistletoe
12 x 16 SOLD
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery | 1785 Coast Highway One, PO Box 325 Bodega Bay, CA 94923 | 707-875-2911 | Email Us
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, he was a painter of the desert. 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 drw "Little Jimmy" and the "Canyon Kiddies," these strips were made into animated cartoons. In 1936, "Little Jimmy" was a guest star in Max

Will Rogers and Jimmy Swinnerton
American humorist, Will Rogers meeting
Jimmy Swinnerton. Photo is from
Painters of the Desert
by Ed Ainsworth, 1960
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
Call,
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," there is a description of a 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.