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 Leonidas Cramer Jr Swords  (1915 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: Georgia/Florida      Known for: allegorical genre and figure, surreal, teaching

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These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
A graduate of the University of Florida in the late 1930s, Leonidas Swords had a studio and taught at Central Florida Community College. He received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Fellowship and a Kress Award from the Florida Federation of Art.

Source: Neal Auction Company

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

Cramer Swords was born near Athens, Georgia, in the eponymous town of Swords, a community founded in 1906 by his grandfather. Though the details of his life are not well documented, in the late 1930s, he studied art at the University of Florida under Hollis Holbrook and, presumably, artist-in-residence Fletcher Martin. As both artists were strongly influenced by the American Scene murals of Thomas Hart Benton, it is reasonable to assume that Benton’s work had an impact on Swords’ developing style. Following graduation in 1939, Swords worked briefly as a graduate assistant and then established a studio in Gainesville, Florida, where he painted portraits and taught art for more than twenty years. A confirmed bachelor, Swords resided with his parents and sisters in the historic area of Gainesville. In 1962, he became a part-time instructor at Central Florida College in Ocala and worked there until his retirement in 1980.

Southern Allegory and a related work entitled The Meeting (Wolf’s Auction House, April 20, 1991) were probably painted in the early 1940s, shortly after the artist’s return to his native Swords to attend the funeral of his grandfather, John Buchanon Swords. Embedded in both scenes are a series of allusions to this remarkable man and to the town he built out of Georgia red clay. As both founder and patriarch of Swords, “Buck” Swords established a number of lucrative businesses, including a distillery, grist mill, cotton gin, and bank, which formed the nucleus of the town’s economy. He also underwrote the construction of the town’s Methodist church and schoolhouse. By the mid-1920s, the once-thriving community was fairly abandoned, a demise attributed to prohibition, the boll weevil, and fire.

Cramer Swords composed his painted autobiography in the manner of Thomas Hart Benton, inserting vignettes that recalled his own childhood, along with references to his enterprising ancestor—iron swords, sacks of corn, black sharecroppers draped in cotton—all juxtaposed against the zigzagging rhythms and undulating forms of the Georgia landscape. Likewise in the tradition of Benton, Swords incorporated his muscular self-image into the scene, dressed in a white cotton shirt and a floppy straw hat. Nancy Rivard Shaw

Artist files, Cramer Swords. Charleston Renaissance Gallery. Author unknown. Past Auction Results, Cramer Swords. Dom and Maureen’s New House, p. 4 of 13.
Wright, John W. Summer Visits to Buckhead, Georgia and Swords, Georgia. Buckhead, Georgia: Parkway Publishers, Inc., 2005.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

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