Atlanta Constance Sampson realized her dream of a one- woman show when she was 91 years old. It was at the National Arts Club in New York City. The year was 1988. Sampson was born in 1896 on a small Iowa-Minnesota border farm 3 miles east of Lyle or 4 miles north of Toeterville, Iowa. As a child she started painting pictures of hollyhocks and morning glories which grew outside the family’s kitchen. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in art education she moved to Detroit where she taught for many years.
In 1947 she acted on her dream by moving to New York City where she lived in a one room apartment and devoted her life to painting. “It was just as necessary as eating and sleeping for me to paint. It was an obsession all my life,” Sampson said In the sixties, she studied with German born artist Hans Hoffman at Provincetown. It was Hoffman who once told her “Atlanta, you have something very few people are given in in life. I can teach you little. Paint, just paint.” She also studied with Theodore Stamos, Thomas Fogarty, Bernard Klonis and Bruce Dorfman at the Art Students’s League in New York, where she received a full scholarship at the age of 84.
After a second viewing of the movie,”Lawrence of Arabia,” she was inspired to paint a series of 28 large abstract oils. In the January 1989 issue of “Art In America” Lawrence Campbell, professor emeritus of Brooklyn College and visiting associate professor of art history at Pratt Institute, wrote about her work in the sixties. “There are exceptional works in this abstract period, notably the series titled “Lawrence of Arabia.’ These paintings may have been inﬂuenced as much by her recollection of the superb photography in this film as by her interest in Rothko.”
Owen Ryan, a New York business executive, discovered Sampson’s work and was instrumental in bringing about the National Art Club exhibition. New York newspapers and numerous national television networks took note of the event. On the first evening, 15 of Sampson’s paintings were sold. Ryan also played a major role in an exhibition of 40 works by Sampson which took place in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. This event, which celebrated her 96th birthday, was sponsored by senators representing the states in which Sampson had lived and pursued her art career. Numerous art shows have followed. The largest exhibit was a second show back at the National Arts Club. It featured 90 works and marked Atlanta’s greatest commercial success with 22 pieces sold. One charcoal nude sold for $7000.
Although she worked for nearly nine decades without recognition or fame, she never gave up despite the many obstacles life put in front of her. Lack of funds did not stop her. When she could not afford materials she painted on grocery bags and on both sides of a canvas. Atlanta Constance Sampson realized her dream: a one-woman show in New York City. Her work has been sought after ever since. Atlanta passed away in 1995 at the age of 98.
For further information on Atlanta Constance Sampson, contact Unionhurst Galleries: (507) 438-9906