Samuel Bolton Colburn Biography

Artist, teacher, art critic, golfer

     Sam Colburn was born in Denver, Colorado. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1918 where he eventually attended the University of Southern California graduating in 1932 with a degree in geology.  After spending a year traveling in Europe his interest turned to art. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (LA) where he took life drawing with Don Graham and met fellow watercolor artists Phil Dike and Millard Sheets.

In 1937 he moved to Carmel, California, and launched his career as a watercolorist. He became known as a “local legend”. He continued his studies by taking a few lessons in watercolor from Paul Whitman. He became a member of the Carmel Art Association in 1940 serving five times as a board member. He became an active member of the artistic community on the Monterey Peninsula, giving classes in painting, executing murals in public places, and exhibiting regularly in local galleries. During the 1940s and 50s, he produced many transparent watercolors of his homeland region and also of scenes from his travels to Mexico and other states.

He had one-man exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, and Tucson. He exhibited at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Oakland Art Gallery; Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; Carmel Art Association. He received many awards at the Monterey County Fair and in 1947, at the California State Fair in Sacramento. His portrait of poet Robinson Jeffers is on the cover of the Vintage paperback Selected Poems. In addition, his drawings have been reproduced in the Monterey Peninsula Herald.  

He was often reviewed and profiled, but the judgment Sam treasured most was by the late San Francisco art critic and author Alfred Frankenstein. (Sam felt John Marin was one of the truly great watercolorists).

          “His forms are very free and there is a sense of movement and fluid open relationship, which is a dramatic experience in itself,” wrote Frankenstein. “But it is a drama tempered by as fine an eye for the subtleties of watercolor as this country has produced since Marin’s heyday.”

Source: Regionalism-The California View, Watercolors 1929-1945/Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988