Samuels made a distinguished contribution to Guyanese art —Castellani House
Stabroek News
August 17, 2003

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For years he planned to publicly chronicle his life, but just as he started to work on his first one-man exhibition, prominent artist Emerson Samuels, AA collapsed in the United States and died of heart failure.

Samuels, 75, who had travelled to the US for medical treatment, was buried on Friday following a service at the Trinity Methodist Church on High Street, Georgetown.

According to the Management Committee of Castellani House, at the time of his death Samuels was working towards an exhibition at the National Gallery, which would have been a retrospective in tribute to his career and his first one-man show.

A release from the art gallery last week expressed profound sadness at Samuels’ passing. According to the statement, the artist “made a distinguished contribution to the Guyanese art scene for over fifty years, as a draughtsman and painter of note, as a graphic-designer and illustrator, and as a dedicated teacher of young people.”

It said several of Mr Samuels’ works are in the National Collection, including ‘Industrial Image’ and ‘Forward Thrust,’ prize-winners at the National Exhibitions of 1978 and 1982 respectively, and his ‘Untitled Abstract’ (1966), the latter two exhibited at the recent 10th Anniversary exhibition at Castellani House. Samuels’s outstanding early ‘Self-portrait’ (1959) and three other paintings of the 1950’s, in the Colgrain Collection, and his ‘Prophecy’ (1987), at Herdmanston House, are also part of the National Collection, as is his portrait of E R Burrowes, hanging at the Burrowes’ School of Art.

He also executed a portrait of the late President Forbes Burnham, located in Parliament Buildings.

From Nabacalis to Castellani

“Samuels was born at Nabacalis on the East Coast of Demerara in January 1928, and came to Georgetown in 1943. He then became employed at the B G Lithographic Company where he met and was apprenticed to leading artist and graphic designer Hubert Moshett.

By 1949 a painting of his, ‘The Workers,’ had won a special prize on exhibition and he had been featured in the press. Around this time he also joined the Guianese Art Group, founded in 1944, and was particularly encouraged and supported by Miss Marjorie Broodhagen, prominent artist and teacher. He later joined the Working People’s Art Class under the tutelage of E R Burrowes, and took part in three group exhibitions with his colleagues Alvin Bowman and Patrick Barrington, sponsored by the Booker Group of Companies. He submitted many of his works in competitions and for illustrations in the popular magazines of the day.

Samuels earned a living as an illustrator, designing educational posters for the Ministries of Agriculture, Information and Health. He also designed postage stamps commemorating national events and holidays. He later illustrated textbooks for the Ministry of Education, in recent years at the National Centre for Educational Research and Development (NCERD), where he illustrated primary and secondary school textbooks.

In these later years, Samuels also taught part-time at the Burrowes School of Art, from its early years at its Eccles, East Bank site, to the mid-eighties in Carmichael Street and to its present location at Carifesta Avenue, where his teaching ended in 1999. He was a thorough teacher of graphics, drawing and painting, inspiring confidence and affection in his students.

In 1996 and 1998 Samuels won the Silver Medal and Bronze Medal respectively in Castellani House’s National Drawing Competitions; his entries in these and the alternate watercolour competitions at the National Gallery were always important additions to the competition’s standards. In 1997 he was awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement (A.A.), for his long and dedicated service in the field of fine art, graphic art and art education.

Inspiration for Samuels’ work was never far removed from the human form and face, in gentle but observant landscapes and cityscapes, affectionate portrait and figure compositions, or symbolic commentaries on the human condition. His palette of colours was distinctively fresh, bold but subtle in colour, and his work revealed a clear love and skill for the painting medium, whether in acrylics, oils or watercolour.”

Samuels, who has been described as a modest and diffident man, is survived by his wife Gladys, daughter Candace, six stepchildren and one foster-son.

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