Sam Golden, Paintmaking Pioneer and Founder of Golden Artist Colors Passes Away at 82

When Sam died unexpectedly, on March 11, 1997, at the age of 82, the art world lost an extraordinary friend. Sam described his work as just simply “making tools” for artists, but those who knew him understood a great deal more went on within this inventor, entrepreneur and paint maker. He had an incredible creative spirit and took tremendous pride in trying to meet the paint material needs of his professional customers. For Sam, making paint was much more than a mere act of commerce, or a way of making a living. Whether working side by side with artists in his lab, or listening to their stories of trying to produce that special piece, Sam was thrilled to be allowed into that creative process of the artist.

On July 11, 1997, the Golden family and Golden Artist Colors marked Sam’s passing with a memorial program at the facility in Columbus, New York. Speaking to the over 200 people assembled were family friend, Charles Kelly, Sr., sons, Tom Golden and Mark Golden, and artists and friends of Sam’s, Bob Huot, Ronnie Landfield, Susan Roth, Darryl Hughto and David Headley. The celebration of Sam’s life also included a show of his paintings produced within the last 2 years of his life. Clearly, Sam at 82 was still ready for another career.

Many personal remembrances were shared this July evening, and together they formed a wonderful woven history of Sam and of his work, life and character.

Over 200 friends and family of Sam Golden gather to share memories at July 11 event at GOLDEN Artist Colors in Upstate New York.

One of the speakers, Susan Roth, shared this insight with the assembled friends –
“Sam and I shared something in common three things that matter in life:
1) A curiosity about life. Sam approached every day as a new day that contained something to be learned. He never stopped growing.
2) Sam had an amazing ability to observe things from the outside, look into someone’s thoughts, and understand the bigger picture, the personal issue.
3 )The capacity to do the “loving deed”. That sense of sharing and giving beyond yourself. He and Adele were wonderful at helping people feel a part of the moment and including them in whatever was going on at the time. You always felt welcome and cared for.”

The Beginning at Bocour
Sam began his paint making career in 1936 at Bocour Artist Colors, a company he eventually co-owned with his uncle Leonard Bocour. Sam and Leonard began by producing hand ground oil colors for artists in Manhattan. It was a very exciting time in the arts, as New York grew in its reputation as the world’s art center. Artists like de Kooning, Newman and Louis were regular visitors at the Bocour shop on 15th Street. The shop became a hang out of sorts for many artists, and at times Bocour customers would set up their pads or easels and draw or paint in the tiny shop. It was Sam’s work directly with artists and the products that he developed as a result of these collaborations with painters that became the inspiration for his entire paint making career. It was this central motif that he carried forward in the creation of Golden Artist Colors, Inc.

Early Experimental Acrylics
During the 1940’s, Sam started his experimental work with the first acrylic for artist’s use, Magna. It was a tremendous challenge to begin working with the new acrylic resin. As he began formulating the product, he continued to work with artists like Alfred Leslie

Artist David Headley demonstrates one of Sam’s many contributions to artists. Headley is showing how Sam’s work influenced the stain paintings of Morris Louis.

and Morris Louis. The new paint was created out of this dialogue with artists who were exploring the needs for new materials to meet their new faster and freer painting styles.

Sam experimented with many materials during the 40’s and 50’s. He experimented with the early polyester resins, and also began his work on the water borne acrylic systems. As an artist paint formulator he was always confronted with the fact that “there are no pat formulas for artist colors. Resin manufacturers make products for commercial or home applications, not for artists.” Sam would describe the difficulty involved in artist paint formulation, “To make a paint sit up instead of laying down. To use full color concentration instead of tints. To maintain a stable system no matter the conditions or use of the materials”. Sam’s rebuff to any technical dilemma was “Don’t tell me it can’t be done, just let me be ignorant and let me believe that it can. Now, please get out of my way and let me do it!”

And Sam did get it done. He is credited with the first artist acrylic, the first use of phthalocyanine pigment for artist paints, the first iridescent artist colors, the first lightfast alizarin hue in acrylic (Quinacidone Crimson), the first stable Zinc White in acrylic and the development of water tension breaker (Acrylic Flow Release). Since the development of Golden Artist Colors in 1980, his company has developed over 1000 custom paints for artists, conservators and many individuals and businesses requiring the special services of custom coatings.

Out of Retirement and Into Business


The new 31,000 square foot addition to the plant takes shape.

After over 35 years as a paintmaker, Sam retired from his partnership with Leonard Bocour, and along with his wife, Adele, bought a small farm in Upstate New York in Chenango County. After trying retirement for 7 years, and at the age of 67, he decided to go back into the business he loved – making paint for artists. In 1980, Sam invited his son, Mark, to join him in the formation of the new company – Golden Artist Colors, Inc.

Golden Artist Colors began inauspiciously in the small barn on the site of Sam’s retirement home. The company consisted of Sam and his wife Adele, Mark and his wife Barbara, and their first employee (and now partner), Chuck Kelly. Their vision was to create products for professional artists.

Today, with 75 employees, the company continues the unique collaborative relationship Sam established between paintmakers and artists. By listening to the creative customer, GOLDEN has produced a line of products unequaled by any other company in the industry. It is no surprise that Sam’s company is the benchmark by which other brands are measured. Golden Artist Colors’ commitment to the original tenet of Sam Golden – to be the best resource for artists in the world – remains strong and constant and serves as a lasting tribute to this wonderful man.

The GOLDEN Gallery features Sam’s recent paintings.

The Sam and Adele Foundation for the Arts, Inc.

The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts, a not-for-profit foundation, has been established to support professional artists and their work.

The Foundation will help foster and thank the community of artists that has supported the lifetime work of Sam and Adele.

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