Sunday, 23 July 2017


“I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me!” ― Dorothea Mackellar 

Bruce Swann was born in 1925 in Brighton, a seaside suburb of Adelaide, and enjoyed sailing at Brighton and Seacliff Yacht Club. After his schooling at Pulteney Grammar School, Bruce began work in 1941 for pastoral house and woolbroker, Goldsbrough Mort & Co. On his 17th birthday, Swann joined the Royal Australian Navy and spent four years at sea. His first ship was attached to the American Navy and his second, the Corvette HMAS Bendigo, sailed with the British Pacific Fleet. Even then he was sketching – the sea and boats.

Following World War II, Bruce Swann resumed work as a stock agent, and remained with Goldsbroughs and then Elder Smith, for 33 years. He dealt daily with woolgrowers and cattlemen on properties and in stockyards, in South Australia and the Northern Territory. He travelled continuously, forming long-lasting business and personal friendships and developed a keen insight into the culture of rural Australia, its natural beauty and its unique landscapes and architecture.

Bruce Swann married Clem in 1948, and they had two sons, Steve and Phil. Aged 39, Swann suffered his first of three heart attacks. Two years later, in 1967, he had a second attack and, while recovering at home for four months, he started to sketch, from memory, many of the places he knew and loved from his country travels. Bruce Swann’s first exhibition of drawings was held at Rachel Biven’s “Off The Beaten Track” Gallery in Sydenham Road, Norwood. The exhibition was highly successful and Bruce then went on to exhibit pen and wash drawings, followed by watercolours and then oil paintings. After his first two exhibitions at ‘Off The Beaten Track’, exhibitions were held regularly at various galleries.

In 1974, Bruce Swann left his job as a stock agent to concentrate full-time on his art. He was commissioned to produce a book of architectural drawings for the University of Adelaide for its Centenary Year. These works are held in the University’s collection. His work from across his career can further be appreciated through the nine books that were published, including “Swann’s South Australia”, “Swann at Home and Abroad”, as well as “The University of Adelaide”. In 1976, Bruce underwent open heart surgery from which he recovered well.

From 1977 onwards, Swann had become a well-known artist and his works were purchased for many important private and public collections not only in Australia but abroad. Important commissions also followed, including The S.A. Syndicate’s commission to produce a book of drawings and paintings of the America’s Cup challenge races in Fremantle in 1987. A large exhibition at the Waterfront Restaurant featured the paintings of the 12 metre yachts in action and the harbour views and the life of Fremantle and was a tremendous success in raising funds for the S.A. Syndicate.

The last one-man exhibition by Bruce Swann was in November 1986 at the Barry Newton Gallery, where the public and corporate support at the opening was so great that there was hardly standing room in the Gallery – and it was a complete sellout. The list of corporate collections with art by Swann within Australia and overseas is extensive, and was growing fast at that time. Sadly, Bruce Swann died in November 1987, aged 62. Bruce Swann’s heritage is a portfolio of art works in a wide range of media – pencil, ink, watercolour, gouache, pastel, acrylic and oil.

The painting above is a favourite of mine, “Dutton Township, South Australia”. It seems to encapsulate the vastness and arid beauty of Australia’s outback settlements. Implicit in this of course, also is the resilience, strength and ruggedness of the Australian people. Being able to not only survive in adversity, but make a success of one’s life is something that one encounters again and again in Australia – especially so in the Outback…

More information from the artist's site here.


  1. Very interesting artwork of australian artist! Lovely rural scenery!

  2. Swann reminds me very much of some of the Heidelberg School's farmscapes eg Clara Southern's An Old Bee Farm; Arthur Streeton's Eaglemont Camp; and Frederick McCubbin's Winter Evening in Hawthorn. I love the colours and the light.