University of Manitoba - University Governance - George Swinton, LL.D., June 2, 1987
George Swinton, LL.D., June 2, 1987
George Swinton

I have the honour to present George Swinton.

As an artist, as a critic, as an author, and not by any means least, as a professor of both studio art and art history at this and other universities, he has made diverse and distinguished contributions to our national cultures and our national life that today, as his fellow Manitobans and members of this University, we are proud to recall and honour.

Mr. Swinton was born in Vienna, Austria and studied Economics and Political Science at the Hochschule fur Welthandel from 1936 to 1938. He came to Canada in 1939, and after serving throughout World War II in the Intelligence Corps of the Canadian Army, he completed his undergraduate work in economics at McGill University in 1946. During the war, however, his life-long interest in art had been awakened, and so he enrolled at the Montreal School of Art and Design, and, later, at the Art Students' League of New York. After this initial training, he moved through a variety of experiences, including Curator of the Saskatoon Art Centre, instructor in art at Smith College, Artist-in-Residence at Queen's University, and Assistant Chief of Industrial Design at the National Gallery of Canada, before coming to The University of Manitoba School of Art in 1954. He remained at The University of Manitoba until 1974, when much to our loss, he was appointed Professor of Art History at Carleton University. After having spent two months as visiting professor at the University of Leningrad in 1981, he returned to Carleton and remained there as an Artist-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor in Art History until his appointment as Professor Emeritus in 1985.

Mr. Swinton's paintings, prints,and drawings have been exhibited widely in Canada and the United States. He has had over thirty solo shows of his work, including two major retrospectives at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1960 and in 1968, and a major retrospective at Carleton University in 1982. His work has been included in six Montreal Spring Exhibitions, four Canadian Biennials, and in eight Winnipeg Biennials. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Beaverbrook Gallery, the Confederation Arts Centre, the Etherington Art Centre, the Glenbow Foundation, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and numerous other public and private collections.

Shortly after his arrival at The University of Manitoba in 1954, while on an arctic painting trip, Mr. Swinton developed an interest in Inuit Art. He recognized that many of the soapstone carvings being done in the North were valid works of art in their own right, and that while Eskimo artists were influenced by the cultures of English and French Canada, nonetheless their artistic perceptions and the sculptures that they produced were unique to their native culture. It is for his extensive writings on contemporary Inuit Art that Mr. Swinton is best known. He has presented numerous lectures and papers, and written well over a hundred articles for national and local periodicals. He has published two well known works on Inuit Art: Eskimo Sculpture in 1965, and Sculpture of the Eskimo in 1972. Some will say "because of", while others will say "in spite of", the scholarly excellence of these books, they have achieved an unlikely measure of popular success. The first spent some weeks on the Canadian best-seller list, while the second is in its third edition, and has been recently released in a fourth, paper-bound edition. Mr. Swinton's third book, Inuit Art in Change, is presently in manuscript, and is to be published in the near future by McClelland and Stewart. He is recognized internationally as the first authority on Inuit Art. Mr. Swinton's extensive archives, and his magnificent collection of Inuit Art is now part of the permanent collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and will be on display in the fall of 1987.

Mr. Swinton has also served on numerous boards and committees; to name but a few, he was at various times the Canadian Universities representative at the UNESCO Conference on Films on Art, the Canadian Universities representative on the Canadian Centennial Commission in 1966/67, a member of the National Capital Commission's Advisory Committee on the Visual Arts, a member of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Board of Governors, and a member of the Ottawa School of Art Board of Directors.

Canada has recognized his outstanding achievements by awarding him the Centennial Medal in 1967, and by inducting him into the Order of Canada in 1979.
Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege to ask, in the name of the Senate of The University of Manitoba, that you now confer on George Swinton the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.