Story of the Prodigal Son 

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 Artist’s Notes

The parable of the Prodigal Son has inspired many artists, musicians, writers, and poets.  The story has many levels for interpretation and insight into the human experience, especially family life and forgiveness.  Rembrandt chose to use this image for his last completed painting “Return of the Prodigal Son”, 1669( based on the drawing he used for his etching “Return of the Prodigal Son” , 1636).  The author Robert Wallace, in his book “The World of Rembrandt”, observes: “In the artist’s view the scripture was the beginning chapter of a narrative of Man’s situation, a dramatic and continuing narrative in which Rembrandt saw himself and his contemporaries as vital participants.”  I find it fascinating that Rembrandt returned to his drawing from 33 year earlier to paint his last powerful work.  This story has inspired me also, since 1968 when I began to make images.


In 18th and 19th century Sweden, especially in the small rural villages, narrative painting was popular.  Stories were painted on banners, or directly on the walls or cornices of rooms.  Often Biblical scenes were depicted, with the figures imitative of the German woodblock prints found in Bibles of the period.  The Prodigal Son was a popular theme that resonated with many Swedes at this time, as mass emigration to North America was occurring.   Tradition dictated that farms would be divided among sons, often making them economically unviable.  The solution would be for one son to emigrate and, unlike the Prodigal, many would never return to their families. My own father was a Swedish immigrant. 


Twenty years ago, in 1984, I made a PRODIGAL SON serigraph in collaboration with Jim Butterfield of Aurora Serigraphics. It was a complex work, with miniatures bordering a central group of larger images.  My new serigraph, STORY of the PRODIGAL SON, is based on an earlier drawing and silkscreen print from 1971.   This work was printed in black ink, the heavy outline giving the impression of a woodblock print.  The new serigraph keeps the five panels of narrative scenes in a horizontal arrangement, as in the screen print of 1971. 

I reworked the original drawing and expanded each of the five panels with more details. I used this drawing outline as a map, to select and build up each of the colors.  For each color, I drew an intricate stencil.  The careful layering of each printing creates a matrix of drawings and a depth of intense colors.  The layers of inks were varied: clear glazes, strong transparent and opaque inks.


My new interpretation, STORY of the PRODIGAL SON, has fine details and intense colors.  Each panel uses many visual elements to capture the narrative scene.




Image Documentation 

An original, hand-printed serigraph published by the artist with collaboration of Aurora Serigraphic Studio, Van Nuys, California.   The work will be available in June, 2004.

Edition Size: 250

Dimensions: Image: 13½" x 40"
Paper: 18 3/4" x 46"

Paper: Coventry rag, acid free 

Colors: aproximately 50 colors printed

 Price: $800.00 



Copyright © 2020 John August Swanson