Samuel M. Middleton

American, 1927 - 2015
Sam Middleton (April 2, 1927 – July 19, 2015) stands as a distinguished mixed-media artist, leaving an indelible mark on the art world. Hailing from New York City, Middleton's artistic journey traversed the globe, shaped by his experiences with the US Merchant Marine, residences in Mexico and Sweden, and a settled life in the Netherlands, where he became a notable figure among expatriate African American artists.
Establishing himself as one of The Netherlands' premier artists since 1961, Middleton's works are revered and form a part of the prestigious Whitney Museum's permanent collection. The museum featured him in its landmark 1962 exhibition "40 Artists Under 40" and showcased his art in the inaugural 2015 exhibition for its new building on the High Line.
Born in New York City and raised in Harlem, Middleton's unique approach to art reflects his personal style, drawing inspiration from abstract expressionism and harmonizing color, lines, and compositions around sound. His specialization in collage sets his work apart, offering a distinctive visual language.
Growing up in Harlem, Middleton's early exposure to the vibrant music scene, particularly jazz and classical genres, profoundly influenced his artistic pursuits. His work at the Savoy Ballroom, designing costumes and painting record and book covers, marked the beginning of his creative journey.
Middleton faced challenges as an artist in the United States due to racial barriers, pushing him to refine his technique while studying with prominent Black creatives like Beauford Delaney. Winning a scholarship to the Institute Allende in Mexico in 1956 marked a turning point, allowing Middleton to advance his technical skills.
Embracing Europe as a haven for creative freedom and escaping racial constraints, Middleton settled in the Netherlands in 1961. His jazz-infused abstract expressionist style evolved further, influenced by the North Holland landscape and the rich musical climate. His paintings, fuller and softer, maintained their distinct jazz connections.
Part of a wave of African American artists moving to the Netherlands, Middleton played a pivotal role in the Dutch art community. Despite his expatriate status, Middleton's art transcended racial boundaries, and he opened doors for other African American artists, aiding their recognition in Europe.
Teaching at prestigious institutions like Atelier '63 in Haarlem and the Royal Academy of Art in 's Hertogenbosch provided Middleton with the means to fuel his artistic pursuits. His profound impact on the Dutch art scene is evident through prominent exhibitions and collaborations.
Middleton's life in the Netherlands, marked by marriages, family, and artistic exploration, encapsulates a unique chapter in the story of an artist who found creative freedom and inspiration beyond borders.
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