Sample’s attempt to impose a Thomas Hart Benton/Grant Wood brand of Midwestern regionalism on New England seems to have been at once affirmative and upbeat, and singularly touched with irony. None of his 1930s paintings of Vermont rural life are without a note of discord, based perhaps on his own mild suspicion of small-town social customs. His New England roots were never deep until late in his career.
After a peripatetic childhood, four years at Dartmouth College, and a bout with tuberculosis, he settled in Los Angeles (1925), where he received artistic training (and inspiration) from artists as varied as Stanton MacDonald-Wright and David Alfaro Siqueiros. He also taught painting at the University of Southern California. During these same years, Sample and his wife Sylvia frequently visited Sylvia’s parents in Vermont. The visits led to some of Sample’s best-known paintings. In 1933, his career on the rise, Sample was appointed artist-in-residence at Dartmouth. After World War II, mural commissions and sketching trips across the country occupied much of his time.
William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)