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Paul Sample was an acclaimed New England regionalist, whose works focused on rural and small town settings. His interest in portraying communities and interpersonal dynamics also marked his work as characteristic of Social Realism.

Sample was born in 1896 as the son of a construction engineer who relocated the family frequently. After years of moving across the United States, Sample attended high school in Glencoe, Illinois. He entered Dartmouth College in 1916, and enlisted in the Naval Reserve during World War I. His artistic interests began to flourish while he was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York. Landscape artist Jonas Lie, whose wife was undergoing treatment at the same facility, served as his instructor. 

In 1925 Sample arrived in New York City, and took a course in commercial art at the Greenleaf Art School. After relocating to California, he entered the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. His talent earned him a teaching position at the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture, and he later served as chair of the art department. He also taught night classes at the Chouinard School of Art.

Sample began exhibiting in 1931 at the Macbeth Gallery, followed by shows at Stendahl Galleries. As his career grew, his work showed in Boston through Grace Horne Galleries and Vose Galleries. He became involved with the Associated American Artists, who exhibited his work in New York City. He additionally earned features in Magazine of Art and Art News.


Sample became involved in several federally funded mural projects during the 1930s. Working alongside Mexican social realist David Alfaro Siquerios and other artists, he produced a mural for the Chouinard Art School sculpture court. Sample also gained recognition as a contributor to numerous periodicals. In 1934 he accepted his first assignment from Fortune magazine, and during the 1940s was featured in Esquire, Country Gentleman, American Artist, and Life. Sample died in 1974, and continued to sketch and paint in his final days. His career of nearly fifty years serves as a testament to his ardent curiosity and sensitivity towards the land and people he encountered.


Written by Zenobia Grant Wingate