Atlanta C. Sampson, Artist, 98; Had Her First Solo Show at 91

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Wednesday, May 24, 1995
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Atlanta C. Sampson, Artist, 98; Had Her First Solo Show at 91
by William Grimes

Atlanta Constance Sampson, a painter who had her first one-woman show in New York at the age of 91, died on Thursday at a nursing home in St. Ansgar, Iowa. She was 98 and lived in Toeterville, Iowa.

Miss Sampson was born on a farm in Lyle, Minn., where she began painting watercolors as a child. After earning a degree in art education from the University of Minnesota, she taught in the Detroit public schools and exhibited her watercolors of flowers, birds and city streets in group shows, mostly in and around Detroit. In 1952, she won first prize at the Chicago International Watercolor Show.

In 1954, she moved to New York City, where she studied at the Art Students League with Theodore Stamos. She also studied with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Mass. In the 1960's, she began making Color Field abstractions using acrylic and oils.

Miss Sampson was discovered in 1987 when Owen Ryan, a management consultant, saw one of her paintings in the window of a Lexington Avenue delicatessen and offered to buy it. The owner introduced him to the artist, who invited him to look at the hundreds of artworks that filled her tiny apartment on East 61st Street. She had been preparing her return to Iowa, discouraged by her decades of poverty and obscurity.

Mr. Ryan organized a comprehensive show of Miss Sampson's work that was presented at the National Arts Club in Manhattan in 1988. In 1992 an exhibition devoted to her life and work was held in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington. Later that year she was given a second show at the National Arts Club.

"It was just as necessary as eating or sleeping for me to paint," Miss Sampson said in a newspaper interview in 1988. "It was an obsession all my life."

She is survived by a sister, Myrtella Langrock of Toeterville.