About Vern

Vern G Swanson - Springville Museum of Art Director 2006


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 Swanson. The youngest of six children he became interested in art by the third grade and studied in 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 store.

Swanson returned to Utah to take a position running 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 almost a year at a sales gallery 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 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. There he became a popular teacher. After the tragic deaths of his wife and young son in April of 1975 he taught another year. He returned to Utah in the summer of 1976 met Judy Nielson of Lyndyl, Utah and married that December. They now have two daughters, Amber C. Swanson and Angela R. Swanson 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 fifteen books on art history, including two on British classical artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and one on John William Godward, four on Russian/Soviet art including Soviet Impressionist Painting, and eight on Utah art, and a religious tome, Dynasty of the Holy Grail. He was twice given the Governor’s Award for the Arts.

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 Hobble Creek in Springville to garden with his wife, write books on art (realism), religion (LDS theology) and politics (golden-mean conservative), and to be with his family, especially grandchildren as much as possible. He continues to volunteer (board member) at the Springville Museum of Art and to consult for the world’s major auction houses and nineteenth century European and Soviet art collectors. He loves to travel with family and friends, and football.

His mottos are, “Give more than you get and be thankful for what you have,” “Treat everybody as though your life depended upon them,” and “Failure is never final and success is never ending.” 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 grace aging; while nobility means that life was to be lived with awe and a purity before our fellow men, Heavenly Father and Son.