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Val Samuelson Mid Century Cartoonist, Illustrator, Painter

September 7, 2015

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I can’t recall how I stumbled across the wonderful work of Val Samuelson (or Vallance Arnold Samuelson to give him his full title), but I do remember having to do quite a bit of research, to piece together the man behind the illustration.

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Born February 27, 1913 in Barrett, Minnesota, Val Samuelson studied at the Minnesota School of Art and the Institute of Fine Arts. By the time he surfaced in Palm Springs in 1953, (after working as a sign painter in Minnesota and as art director for two advertising agencies in LA), he had eye problems and had endured several years of complete blindness. He healed himself, to a degree, with eye exercises and hypnosis–a lifelong interest.

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In his diverse career, he worked as a professional photographer, a cartoonist, a children’s book illustrator and a board game designer. He starred in the Art in Action show for Palm Springs’ TV station KMIR.  As well as teaching many fledgling painters in private classes, Samuelson was one of the dreamers behind the Idyllwild Arts Academy, the influential school on the hill.

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In 1960, Samuelson married Marian Gibbs. Born in Laramie, Wyoming, Marian had an art degree from the University of Wyoming and was working as a secretary to the late Palm Springs mayor Frank Bogert–then editor of the Villager. Pretty and assertive, Marian was an asset to Val’s social life. Samuelson was soon showing up in society photos with Jonas Salk and his wife, the painter Francoise Gilot.

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I think his work has a Mary Blair feel to it, I’m certain he would have seen her ” I Can Fly” Little Golden book which was published in the early fifties or had been to Disneyland and was possibly influenced by her ” It’s a Small World ” exhibition there.

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On the painting side, collectors of his art included society names Steven Chase, Palm Desert founder Cliff Henderson, the actor David Janssen, Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten and Charles Shelton (Desert Magazine editor).

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One of the final wishes of long-time desert artist the late Val Samuelson came true October 11, 2000, when his widow, Marion, donated one of his landscape paintings, the Arroyo, to the City Hall in Cathedral City. For many years, it was displayed in the lobby. In 2011 it was relocated to the second floor where it can be viewed by the public today. You can see it here below.

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There’s more about Val’s painting Here in Ask Art .com and in this informative piece by Ann Japenga.

Many thanks also to Ann for some of the information used in this post and for helping me finally pull together the children’s illustrator and the painter. Wonderful work.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2015 4:00 am

    I wish that we knew Val and Marian- my husband and I own the painting to show (yellow/orange Rothko looking painting) and an abstract of the sun as an eye over San Joaquin Mountains- we love both paintings, and did not know until recently he was local to Palm Springs area- it would have been lovely to meet them.

    • October 22, 2015 1:24 pm

      Hi Lisa, thanks for your comment. How lovely to own two of his paintings and yes a pity that you didn’t get the opportunity to meet. I hope the post has filled in a few gaps about his work for you all the same. : )

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