Completed: September, 2016
Image size: 30 ½” x 22 ½”
Edition Size: 100 Prints
Paper: Moab Entrada Rag Naturel 325 GSM
Archival 100% Cotton-Rag Paper
Media: Giclee Fine Art Print 


Artist’s Notes:

The masked Commedia dell’arte players travel from town to town, bringing fun and excitement. Each comedian and actor has their own life with their own personal conflicts and dramas, but, onstage, they become the characters of the performance. For the townspeople, it is their chance to turn away from their everyday lives, and to be transported into an engaging world of action, comedy, and drama.

The scene is of the popular opera, Pagliacci (Clowns), by Ruggiero Leoncavallo. Act Two has begun. The interplay of light and shadow creates the scene’s atmosphere, as the warm glow from the stage spreads to envelope the entire audience. The attentive crowd excitedly watches the story unfold.


PAGLIACCI – Image History

John August Swanson’s 2016 giclee edition, began with a scan from a 4″x5″ transparency of his 1987 painting of the same name. Between November 20, 2015 and January13, 2016, changes were made to this digital image, adding new sketches, adjusting the colors, and planning a new artwork. A proof of this image was printed on January 13, 2015.

Swanson began a new painting on top of the proof, completing it on April 6, 2016. The new painting was digitally scanned.

That digital image was further refined and proofed. The final image, approved for the giclee edition was completed on July 27, 2016. Kolibri Art Studio printed the first batch of giclees in Spetember, 2016. Swanson inspected each print, approving and hand-signing them on September 12, 2016.






1987 Acrylic Painting
Initial Color Changes


1987, Acrylic Painting



Color Adaption
Color Change
January 13, 2016, Giclee Proof






Sketchbook Drawing
Completed Painting


Page From Notebook
January 30, 2016, Sketch



April 6, 2016, Mixed-Media Painting


PAGLIACCI Reflections
See below for a collection of observations, thoughts, and ideas on, or relating to, Pagliacci.


Lyrics by Sam Lewis
and Joe Young
Laugh Clown, Laugh,


Life is a play and we all play a part
The lover, the dreamer, the clown
The dreamer and lover are always in tears
The clown spreads sunshine around
The life with a smile is the life worthwhile
The clown till the curtain comes down


Martin Luther King, Jr.
from a sermon given in November of 1954
Transformed Nonconformist


“This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed non-conformists. The saving of our world from
doom will come not from the actions of the conforming majority, but through the creative
maladjustment of a dedicated minority.”



Ched Myers
Watershed Discipleship Anthology


“The emancipatory spirit that lives within Carnival comes from its transgressive energy that is always
simultaneously moving away from one reality toward another. Alienation and forced social conventions
are undone in the Carnival’s inclusiveness. Russian literary theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin refers to this as
‘the second life of the people,’ a place where community is liberated from the seriousness and tragedy of
‘official’ reality. And once we develop this double vision for the world–of how it is and how it could be–
we begin to recognize ourselves
as the ‘creatively maladjusted’.”




Carnival De Resistance


In 2015, I participated in a conference arranged by Ched Myers and the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. The Carnival de Resistance performed several times and reminded me of the ancient roots theater has in human community and the ways it has been used to bring people together.

Franco Zeffirelli’s


Ken Feit
Itinerant Fool, Foolish Wisdom


“According to the ancient conventions of make-up, when a clown ‘puts on whiteface’ something magical happens, like the magic of Eucharistic prayer… the clown is ageless, being neither old nor young but transcending time… belongs to no race or cultural grouping… on the edge of all societies, defying containment by law, mores and reason. The whiteface by masking the clown in anonymity unmasks his true identity and permits him to reveal himself as never before…”

Luis Valdez Founder of El Teatro Campesino

The Teatro Campesino is a very important group. When I was part of the United Farm Workers movement, I attended many of their productions. They were fun, informative, and helped to raise our consciousness. What especially inspired me was the way they reached out to communities that never had a chance to see theater and the way they adapted the theater to the lives of people who harvest California’s crops, in the small towns surrounding our agricultural centers.




Ariane Mnouchkine



I saw this film many years ago and it made a lasting impression on my mind about the connection of modern theater with the past. Moliere wrote in the 17th century, but you could see the same excitement and joy the villagers would have for his theater troupe that we still experience.




Theatre du Soleil


I remember seeing the Theatre du Soleil at Paramount Studios in Hollywood during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. They were a major attraction for the Olympic Arts Festival, but I was fortunate to see several of their performances of Shakespearean plays. I have never forgotten the visual impact it had on me and the excitement of the audience. Even though the plays were performed in French with no translations, each one was a wonderful spectacle. At their theater in Paris, they perform in a converted armory building, and create shows using acting techniques, costumes, masks, musical instruments, and other elements from all theater cultures around the world.

This performance of the ancient Greek play, Agamemnon, is an example of the brilliant spectacles that they create. The Theatre du Soleil formed by Ariane Mnouchkine is known around the world for their imaginative and important work in creating new ideas for theater.

Dario Fo
Italian Playwright
Nobel Laureate

Censorship of art has always existed in all senses, at all times, during every era. Commedia dell’Arte‘s jesters were talking newspapers. People couldn’t read or write and, through jesters, they would listen to reviews and comments about the news. They learnt about what was happening elsewhere. And above all, the jesters’ reports helped raise people’s awareness. The jesters were liked by the poor, by the common people, but they were hated, feared and despised by those in power.


Additional information

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions 36 × 7 × 7 in