Glenn C. Swedlun (1902–1987)
Glenn C. Swedlun was a popular twentieth-century regional artist active in Arkansas and Illinois. For almost forty years, Swedlun lived and worked in Eureka Springs (Carroll County).
Glenn Swedlun was born in Illinois (either Cairo or Elgin, depending upon the source) on May 11, 1902, the first child of Frederick Ernest Swedlun and Cordella Florence Cayle Swedlun. He had one sister. Swedlun grew up in the Chicago area, where he completed one year of high school.
For five years while a young man, Swedlun played professional baseball. At age twenty-seven, he gave up baseball to become an artist like his father. His father, a well-known Illinois landscape painter who worked under the pseudonym Ernest Fredericks, taught Swedlun the fundamentals of art, instilled in him an appreciation of the natural environment, and encouraged him to pursue a career in art.
While working as an artist in Chicago, Glenn Swedlun exhibited at the Swedish Club and participated in Navy Pier shows. An art critic of the Chicago Daily News saw an exhibit of Swedlun’s and his father’s works and wrote, “It was easy to see why the Swedluns have sold more paintings in the United States than any other two artists.”
Glenn’s wife, Irene E. Swedlun, was five years younger than he; they had no children. They moved to Eureka Springs in 1950 and built a log cabin home overlooking Lake Lucerne, located two miles from downtown. Irene died in 1964.
It was nature, Swedlun said, that provided the beauty artists put on canvas. His paintings were almost entirely woodland landscape scenes with a commanding touch of realism. Swedlun painted wandering streams, country roads, split-rail fence lines, and rustic cabins of the Arkansas hills and beyond.
In Eureka Springs, Swedlun’s studio on Spring Street was a popular stop for tourists from around the world. There, he exhibited his work and taught several art classes each year to residents and tourists. He also exhibited his works in local hotels and restaurants and held one-man shows in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and other nearby cities.
Swedlun sought to record the splendor of the Ozark Mountains before it was “eaten alive by civilization and its pollution, population explosion, and waste.” “I feel we have succeeded in preserving the Ozarks for posterity,” Swedlun said, “but putting it on canvas isn’t enough. This natural beauty should be left free of the physical corruption and pollution that man leaves behind.” He was an early environmental crusader who fought to preserve the natural ecology of the area.
Swedlun’s subject matter was consistently found in the low mountain surroundings of northwestern Arkansas, southwestern Missouri, and northeastern Oklahoma. After the Eureka Springs tourism season each year, Swedlun made exhibition tours through Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma to paint and show his works.
In an interview with Wayne D. Mote for a feature article in the Oklahoman magazine titled “Painter of the Ozarks,” Swedlun estimated that he painted approximately 125 landscapes each year. On average, he said, it took him about three days to complete a painting.
One of Swedlun’s best-known works, Grandma Puckett’s Barn at Hogscald Hollow, depicted nearly forgotten vernacular architecture of the Ozark hills. The Hogscald setting, neighboring a small cove on Beaver Lake, took its name during the Civil War when large numbers of people gathered to kill and process the wild hogs plentiful there.
In 2010, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum displayed a group of paintings by Swedlun and his father. The two men had painted together for thirty-five years.The exhibit collection, in part, was gifted to the museum after Glenn Swedlun’s death and became a permanent exhibit at the museum.
Swedlun died on October 18, 1987, and is buried in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery in Eureka Springs.
For additional information:
“Glenn C. Swedlun (1902–1987).” AskART.com. http://www.askart.com/askart/artist.aspx?artist=11143725 (accessed October 14, 2021).
Glenn C. Swedlun Art Collection. Eureka Springs Historical Museum, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Thomas A. Teeter
Little Rock, Arkansas
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I have a painting of Mr. Swedlun’s. It says on the back of the frame that it was painted four miles west of Lake Leatherwood, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It was given to me by Wesley Beacham, who was also a painter and friends with Mr. Swedlun. Wesley was a friend and client of mine for eleven years before he passed away. He gave me one of his paintings and chose this one because I admired it. On the back of the frame it also said that Mr. Swedlun considered this one of his best paintings of Leatherwood. I lived in the Ozarks for twenty-five years, and we just moved to Oregon near my children.