Dream of Jacob

Completed: May, 1986
Media: Hand-printed serigraph, 35 colors printed
Dimensions: 23½”  x 15½”
Limited edition of 175


Jacob was the son of Isaac (Abraham and Isaac), father of Joseph (Story of Joseph). Upon receiving his father’s blessing through deceit, Jacob fled his home in fear of his older brother Esau. On the road to Harran, in a place called Luz (Jacob would rename it Bethel), he stopped to sleep and received a vision.

Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28) was a story Swanson returned to many times directly, and in allusion (cf. Ascent, Jester)

Swanson holding Dream of Jacob (Serigraph, 1974)

Dream of Jacob (Multi-media painting on top of Swanson’s 1974 serigraph, completed 1982)
Dream of Jacob (Watercolor painting, 1984)
Jacob’s Dream (Crayon Sketch, 2011)

Preliminary work for the serigraph edition began in November 1985. Swanson printed the artwork at Advanced Graphics, Studio in London, working with master printer Chris Betambau. Printing began in March, 1986 and was completed in May.

Who among us has not dreamt? Who among us has not at one blessed time in our lives sought or seen a higher good, a brighter vision? And has anyone totally dismissed the comforting idea of someone, somewhere being able to come to our aid, who we may call angels? It matters not whether you associate this particular print with the Biblical context out of which it was inspired. Your enrollment in the human race will qualify you to partake in the beauty of this image. It is an icon in and of itself, allowing us to be transported into other realms as our imaginations will lead us. That is not to say that the Biblical reference is lost on any of Swanson’s works. Hardly. For me, they are the very fabric into which the decorative presentation is woven.

We have seen that a work of art consists neither in the vision of the artist alone, not in the physical results seen on the canvas alone, “but in both together”. Only when the intention of the artist is fulfilled on the canvas can the work be considered “completed”. Certainly it would be wrong to eliminate the “religious” as one of Swanson’s loves. He is a Christian and will make no apologies for his beliefs. And yet, he does not want to be seen exclusively as an apologist. Rightly, he is concerned that a narrow interpretation of the intent or effect of his art could be an evangelical one. He shies away from being pigeon-holed in view of harmful historical precedents for overly pious or fundamental ecclesiastical art. Instead he would encourage everyone, of whatever faith or no faith, to engage in his art. It is through the deepest concerns of humanity, transgenerational transcultural ideals, that he seeks to appeal to his audience. He does not seek to proselytize in any specific sense through his art; as Rouault said, “Faith expresses rather than defends itself in art.”

Robin Pearse-Drance,
Theologian and artist
December 6, 1987