Francis and the Wolf


Completed: July 18, 2002
Image size: 26″ x 18″
Paper size: 30″ x 22″
Edition Size: 225 Prints
Paper: Coventry, 100% cotton rag, white vellum, acid free,
mouldmade in USA, 290 gsm
Media: Serigraph



The central panel shows Francis sitting with the wolf lying at his feet. They are surrounded by dense forest and other wild creatures. Bordering the top and bottom of the main scene are ten miniatures depicting key stories in Francis’ life. These emphasize his celebration of God’s creation and his compassion and care for all living things. Four miniature panels on each side refer to the beauty and wonder of creation as expressed in Francis’s “Canticle of Brother Sun.”


This artwork developed from Swanson’s series depicting the life of Francis of Assisi. The villagers of Gubbio, Italy expressed their deep concern to Brother Francis about a wolf that preyed on their livestock and threatened travelers. Francis entered the woods and convinced the wolf to live in peace with all creation.


Artist’s Notes

In my crayon sgraffito painting (1985), Francis sits and listens to the wolf’s own story of fear in the face of the villagers’ cruelty. I see Francis as a minstrel singing to the wolf. Nature understands the song of Francis, which echoes in the stories and songs of all people, like the Native American, Greek (Orpheus), and Hebrew (David). These stories and songs honor the Creator and move people to care for all creation.

This serigraph has been carefully developed, embellished, and enriched during its printing. The process of building the 48 color printings over a period of seven months resulted in a serigraph edition that I believe to be among my best.

The wolf is like our shadow–the dark side we deny in ourselves and in our society. Until we are ready to embrace and speak to the wolf within us, it remains destructive. Francis enlightened us by approaching the menacing wolf and treating him with kindness. One exercises full creativity only when the complete self is accepted, including the shadows.

-John August Swanson July, 2002

Excerpt from Canticle of Brother Sun

May you be praised, O Lord, by all creatures,
But especially by our brother, the sun
Who brings us the day
And allows you to shine on us!

May you be praised, O Lord,
For our sisters, the stars and the moon,
Which you have scattered through the heavens,
Clear, precious, and beautiful!

May you be praised, O Lord,
For our mother, the earth,
Who gives us shelter and nourishment
Abundant fruits, varied herbs, and flowers!

May you be praised, O Lord,
For all those who,
Because they love you,
Pardon others
And support the weak and sick.

May you be praised, O Lord,
For all who die to establish peace.
May all of them be happy in You, O Most High,
And may they receive from You the crown of glory.

-Saint Francis

Additional information

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions 36 × 7 × 7 in