Joseph Ernest Sampson, ARCA, 1887-1946

Joseph Ernest Sampson is best known as  a partner
in Sampson-Matthews Ltd., but he was also a fine artist

 

Biography

Joseph Ernest Sampson was born in England, the son of a Canadian Pacific Steamships official.

As a youngster, Joseph Ernest Sampson studied art in Liverpool, where he won several awards. He then studied at the Julian Academy in Paris, as well as the Grand Chaumière and Colarossi academies, again earning awards for his figure painting and composition.

Joseph Ernest Sampson moved to Canada in 1909, settling in Toronto, continuing his art and finding work in an art printing company. He became a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1914.

In Toronto, he became art director at a printing firm, where he met his soon-to-be business partner, Charles Matthew. In 1918, the pair formed Colour-Craft Sampson-Matthews Ltd. The company, later renamed Sampson-Matthews Ltd, became innovators in colour printing and design.

Overlooked Artist

Joseph Ernest Sampson continued his art, and became known for his portraits, figures and landscapes, working in both oil and watercolour.

Among his portrait subjects were speakers of the Ontario legislature.

Today, Joseph Ernest Sampson is probably best known – perhaps unfairly, since his own paintings have been somewhat overlooked – for the work of his company in producing high-quality silkscreens, the Sampson-Matthews silkscreens.

These silkscreens started off as hand-crafted reproductions of Canadian paintings by well-known Canadian artists, many of which were in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Works included paintings by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, as well as other major artists.

Sampson-Matthews Silkscreens

A.Y. Jackson worked with Sampson-Matthews Ltd. and Sampson art director and former Group of Seven member A.J. Casson to choose subject matters that reflected the Canadian identity. The silkscreens were conceived as a tool to help boost Canadian troop morale during the Second World War, with the prints being distributed to military barracks in Canada and abroad.

The first silkscreen was produced in 1941, with several dozen to follow during the course of the war. The project continued after the war ended, wrapping up in the early 1960s. By then, about 100 different artworks had been turned into silkscreens, including some that were especially commissioned.

These Sampson-Matthews silkscreens continue to be sought after by art collectors, who prize their vivid colours, durability and their history.

Several of Joseph Ernest Sampson’s own works were reproduced as part of the Sampson-Matthews silkscreens: Veterans of the Sea, a Maritime scene; Gaspe, a Quebec landscape (sometimes known as Village on the Bay); and Mending Nets.

Joseph Ernest Sampson’s original works are held by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Government of Ontario Art Collection, the Canadian War Collection and elsewhere. He was a member of several artist groups in his career, including the Ontario Society of Artists, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, and Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Arts (ARCA).

Joseph Ernest Sampson died in 1946.

Source:  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker. National Gallery of Canada, Artists in Canada database.