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)
Peter Oliver Foss immigrated to the United States with his older brother in the 1880s. They spent several years in California trying to make a living in gold mining, but eventually gave up and moved to Boston. Foss worked as a housepainter and carpenter, and painted canvases in his free time. In 1917 he bought a shack, moved it to his property, and built several more rooms to house his wife and seven children. Foss never signed his paintings because he knew who had painted them and did not intend to sell them. (Artist biography, William T. Currier, from conversations with the artist’s family, the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Boston and the Boston Public Library)