Born in Texas in 1905 James Swann (1905-1980) discovered his disposition for art while attending Sul Ross College in Alpine (TX), where artists Anna Keener and Elizabeth Keefer, both Chicago trained, influenced him greatly. After his graduation, Swann moved to Fort Worth to work for the Southwestern Engraving Company, then as of 1927 in Amarillo, before settling for another few years in Dallas in 1932.
While in Dallas he completed over 32 etchings, mostly landscapes, but after a first visit to Chicago in 1933, the city became his main source of inspiration. This led Swann to move to Chicago in late 1935, where he apprenticed with etcher Morris Henry Hobbs, and from whom he clearly learned much. Swann developed a talent for atmospheric renderings which he etched to great effect: rainy streets, city lights at night, foggy, snowy, windy and wind still cityscapes. His depictions of the Art Institute’s lion sculptures in a snow storm, or Lake Shore Drive with the Drake Hotel’s beacon beaming into a foggy and rainy night, are today regarded as some of the most iconic works of art depicting the Windy City.