( 1915-1981 )

Cramer Swords

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Leonidas Cramer Swords, Jr. was born in the eponymous town of Swords, Georgia. In the late 1930s, he studied art at the University of Florida under Hollis Holbrook and, presumably, artist-in-residence Fletcher Martin. As Martin was much influenced by the work of Thomas Hart Benton, it is reasonable to assume that Benton’s work had an impact on Swords’s artistic development as well. Upon Swords’s graduation in 1939, he worked briefly at the University as a graduate assistant and subsequently opened a studio on the second floor of a downtown Gainesville building. There, he was able to support himself painting portraits and giving art lessons to children and adults.

In 1962, Swords began work as a part-time instructor at Central Florida Community College in Ocala and taught there until his retirement in 1980. College employment records indicate that Swords held a Masters of Education from the University of Florida and was the recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Fellowship and the Kress Award from the Florida Federation of Art. He served three terms as vice president of the Gainesville Fine Arts Association and was at one point the membership chairman of the Florida Federation of Arts.

Swords’s painting style varied widely and included abstraction and an expressionistic style derivative of Karl Zerbe. A mural-size painting that was a collaborative work between several students incorporates a portrait of Swords, who was a great favorite among his pupils.

In his personal life, Swords was something of a purist. A devout Catholic, he attended a church where the Mass was performed in Latin. He was a confirmed bachelor and quite passionate about good food and drink; he was always nattily dressed and drove a sporty red car. A gourmet cook, he often entertained his students, but eschewed restaurants as he considered eating in public vulgar. He has been described by colleagues as the one of “the last of the great gentleman teachers.”

After his retirement from academic life, Swords returned to Gainesville where his sisters lived. He died there in 1981.

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This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Robert M. Hicklin, Jr. Inc.


For more information on this artist and work, please contact us.

This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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