Paul Swan

Paul Swan

My dad introduced Paul Swan into my life. A few years ago he was clearing out a part of his basement and came across a painted portrait of a relative on my mother’s side. None of us knew her in life, but the back of the painting had a note tucked into it telling us who she was and how I was related to her. Dad asked if I wanted it so I took it. I looked up the artist’s name online, “Paul Swan,” but could not find many details. As of this writing he does not have a Wikipedia page. All I could initially find was he was an artist and a dancer and, in his old age, was filmed by Andy Warhol. Somehow I found out there were two people, Janis and Richard Londraville, working on a biography of Paul Swan. I contacted Janis by email and began an online correspondence with her. After telling her about the painting I had by Swan she filled in many of the blanks about him, who turned out to be quite the Renaissance man. When their book was published I bought and read it. Born in 1883 in Nebraska, Swan ran away from the farm at fifteen to Lincoln, then Chicago and New York during which time he modeled, learned to draw and paint. He was a much sought after portraitist and was also famous in his prime as a dancer. He wrote and recited poetry, acted on stage and in early movies and was a sculptor. He died in obscurity in 1972. The person in the painting I have by Swan is my maternal grandfather’s cousin. Swan painted it in his Carnegie Hall studio June 18, 1955. The note behind the painting said she was a professional opera singer, played piano, lived in N.Y.C. and had no children. After some time of research, contacting opera halls and theaters to search their archives, I came to a dead end. No one had any record of her. On the back of one of Swan’s other portraits he quoted Dobson in black ink:

All passes, art alone

Enduring stays with us.

The bust outlasts the throne,

The coin, Tiberius.