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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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Paul Sample, American, 1896-1974

Beaver Meadow
1939
Oil on canvas
Gift of the artist, Class of 1920, in memory of his brother, Donald M. Sample, Class of 1921; P.943.126.1

 

While Paul Sample was artist-in-residence at Dartmouth from 1938 to 1962, he lived primarily across the Connecticut River in Norwich, Vermont. This landscape depicts the small settlement within the rural township of Norwich known as Beaver Meadow. One of Sample’s most admired works, it is an eloquent expression of the aesthetics and ideals of the regionalist movement of the 1930s. Its lean, decorative composition, stripped of extraneous detail, recalls popular illustration, caricature, and American folk art traditions. In it, Sample celebrates qualities associated with a stereotypical Vermont village: the harmonious relationships between humans and nature, as reflected in the tidy fields and farm buildings nestled in the hills, and among the members of this apparently idyllic settlement, whose sense of community is strengthened through weekly worship. Yet the picture also evokes an undercurrent of unease, and even suspicion, that is suggested by the rigidity of the figures in the foreground and their detachment from one another. A rather schoolmarmish figure, identified in a preliminary sketch as “Mrs. Roberts,” sits outdoors reading, her pose taken directly from James McNeill Whistler’s famous portrait of his mother (Arrangement in Black and Grey: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother). Her male counterpart, a rather gaunt New England Yankee type, stands looking absently downward, while between the two a woman seems to retract her gesture of affection toward two cats. Further beyond, we see two rotund figures facing one another along the same plane as a pair of stout white pigs. Presumably Sample’s view of his new surroundings and neighbors was more complex than the all-out boosterism generally associated with the regionalist aesthetic.

Last Updated: 4/17/09