Carl Sammons (1883 – 1968)

Carl Sammons Museum Collections


Carl Sammons, Grand Canyon, Oil on Canvas, Circa 1930, 14" x 20"

Carl Sammons, Grand Canyon, Oil on Canvas, Circa 1930, 14″ x 20″

Considered one of the early “California Impressionists,” Carl Sammons is known for plein air landscapes that featured the flowering plants native to the coasts, mountains, and deserts of California.

Sammons was born and raised in Kearney, Nebraska, where he learned the trade of sign painting. In 1905 he moved to Sioux City, Iowa where he worked for various sign companies while taking lessons from F.P. Frisch, the local painter of note.

Sammons moved to Petaluma, California in 1913, but lived in various locations in northern California over the next several years. Around 1920, he enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute.) In 1923, Sammons married Queen Esther Stewart, a native Californian, and the couple settled in Oakland. From this time on he appears to have supported himself primarily with his landscape painting.

The Sammons traveled together throughout the West, but their most intensive explorations were in California. For several months each year they drove around the state so Carl could paint a variety of landscapes on location. He also took painting trips with fellow artists; including a trip to the Grand Canyon in 1929 with John Gamble, and a 1932 excursion with Edward Borein.

Sammons worked mostly in oil but also enjoyed painting with pastels. Most paintings were done en plein air and therefore tended to be in small formats. He used impressionist techniques, but his style was tighter and more carefully drawn than many of his colleagues. He preferred the soft, pastel palette popular with the eucalyptus and shoreline painters in California in the nineteen-teens and twenties, but accented it with brighter colors when painting flowers in the landscape. John Gamble is said to have called him the best painter of flowers in the West.