The Samstag Story
The Anne and Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship Program was formally established in 1992 through a remarkable bequest by American artist Gordon Samstag, who taught from 1961 to 1970 at the South Australian School of Art, now the School of Art, Architecture and Design, a part of the University of South Australia.
Gordon Samstag's will provided substantial funds for awarding, annually, a number of scholarships to enable Australian visual artists to 'study and develop their artistic capacities, skills and talents outside of Australia'.
The negotiations for an Agreement between the University of South Australia and the Trustee culminated in the University's representatives meeting the Trustee in Naples, Florida, in October 1991, to conclude discusssions.
His unique, in–perpetuity bequest, ranks as the greatest gift made expressly for the development and education of Australian visual artists.
An American citizen, Gordon Samstag was born in New York City on 21 June 1906, and studied at the New York Art Students League before continuing his studies at the Academie Colarossi in Paris. A 1981 exhibition at the Wichita Art Museum, Kansas, The Neglected Generation of American Realist Painters 1930–1948, confirmed his status as a significant social–realist painter of the 'American Scene'. His work is represented in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio and the Sheldon Swope Gallery, Terre Haute, Indiana. There are also public murals painted by Samstag (commissioned by the Roosevelt Administration's Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture) at post offices in Reidsville, North Carolina (1938) and Scarsdale, New York State (1940).
In 1973 the Samstags moved to Cairns, Queensland, before settling finally in Naples on the west coast of Florida, in 1976, where Gordon died three years after Anne, in March 1990, at the age of 83.
The philanthropy of these two distinguished benefactors to Australian culture has been acknowledged by the University of South Australia in the naming of its celebrated new Art Museum gallery, on North Terrace, which opened in 2007 as the Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art – University of South Australia.
Research continues into the lives of Anne and Gordon Samstag.
In 2016, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Samstag Scholarships, the Samstag Museum held Meet the Samstags: Artists and Benefactors, an exhibition that showcased the artistic talents of Anne and Gordon Samstag with many treasures from the Samstag Legacy Research Archive.
Importantly, Meet the Samstags: Artists and Benefactors was complemented by the publication The Samstag Legacy: An Artist’s Bequest, a major scholarly biography of Anne and Gordon Samstag published by the Samstag Museum of Art that illuminates the enigmatic people behind the Samstag Legacy and celebrates the significance of their historic bequest.