According to his family history, Peter Oliver Foss was a talented songwriter, inventor, and painter. Foss sought his early fortune in the California gold mines after immigrating from Norway in the 1880s. Disappointed in this endeavor, he settled in Massachusetts to work as a house painter. Approximately a dozen completed canvases were found in the family attic in 1982. Foss never sold his works and rarely signed them. The majority of Foss's extant paintings are of biblical subjects such as Samson and Delilah and the Beheading of John the Baptist.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)