Rainbow City


Completed: April 14, 1997 (Rainy Day was completed August, 1981)
Image size:  271/8” x 343/4
Edition Size: 44 Prints
Paper: Stonehenge
Archival 100% Cotton-Rag Paper
Media: Serigraph, 43 colors printed


Art Description

A storm begins to break over the large city. People are walking in the rain with their umbrellas. I tried to capture the moment the sun shines though the clouds and a rainbow is formed, sending its colors out onto the people and the city.

I made the preliminary drawings and sketches in pen and ink with watercolors while in London, 1977 through 1981. After revisions and studies, I printed the original serigraph, Rainy Day in 1981, using 31 color printings.

Rainy Day (Serigraph, 1981)

Fifteen years later, after I began to print with master printer James Butterfield at Aurora Serigraphics, I revisited the artwork. I had always felt that it would have benefited from stronger colors, and with the experience I had developed, mixing oil paints with glossy varnish to create my own printing inks, I decided to print additional layers of colors over the remaining prints from the RAINY DAY edition. I retitled the serigraphs with all 43 color printings, RAINBOW CITY.


A reflection

The serigraph Rainy Day by John Swanson is the latest in a series of monumental art works produced by this artist in the last decade. Swanson depicts this phenomenon from various vantage points, including persons actually caught in the rain, persons inside talking and reading about the rain, or oblivious to it. He also includes on individual who points to the rainbow just bursting through the clouds signifying the end of the downpour and hope for sunny times to come.

In the surrealist, irrational space of his urban landscape he emphasizes diversity of human reactions and circumstances and de-emphasizes the structure of the city itself. He depicts this diversity with great care, a point of view which has at its basis a humanism and egalitarianism which can be found in all of his works.

His portrayal of the rainbow busting through the clouds functions both as a positive metaphor and a depiction of the refraction of light by water-laden skies into its component parts. Each cloud is washed by it own primary or secondary color depending on its distance from the sun. This very conceptual approach to the portrayal of the rainbow adds to the candor and meaning of the work as a whole.

His approach to color is pointillist in concept and he has taken great care to make each portion of the print surfaces interesting to view. The print, thus, contains subtle color harmonies and relationships which function as a symphony of theme and variation with potential for infinite delight for the active viewer.

The successful synthesis of the structural and conceptual components of this highly complex serigraph make it a satisfying visual experience. The notions of relativism as expressed in his portrayal of human activity and light phenomenon make this picture truly a product of the twentieth century and the most manifested of the works he has done to date. And the underlying message of hopefulness which it contains inspires courage and strength at a time when the present and future are so uncertain.
Sheila Pinkel, October 27, 1981

Additional information

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions 36 × 7 × 7 in