George Sumner (artist)

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George Sumner
Born (1940-04-29) April 29, 1940 (age 78)
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Known for painter, environmentalist
Movement abstract impressionism, environmental impressionism

George Sumner (born Aprıl 29,1940) is an American oil painter and environmental activist[1] who began his career by creating marine-themed abstracts in the 1970s.[2]

Sumner's painting style appears similar to airbrushing, but he applies oil paint directly to large canvasses with baby diapers prior to blending and layering. His palette of high contrast colors often includes deep blue-green-orche or pink-violets-ruby, which are frequently lightened with pure or slightly off whites. Common subjects and motifs he has returned to over the years include sea caves, coastlines, starfields, whales,[3][4] dolphins,[5] sea lions, jellyfish, volcanos, butterflies, Golden Gate Bridge,[6] San Francisco Bay, fog, hummingbirds, dragonflies and grape leaves.

Early life[edit]

Sumner was born and raised in San Francisco.[4][7] He completed high school and served a three year tour of duty in Southeast Asia with the Navy (1959–61). He then attended the City College of San Francisco, where he focused on Ornamental Horticulture. He intermittently attended the San Francisco Art Institute from 1963-66.[8]


In 1967-74 Sumner worked as a gardener in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. In 1970 he won a city-wide competition to create the official logo for the Golden Gate Park's 100th anniversary. He later create celebratory works of art for a number of commemorative events.[8] In 1975 he began working full-time as an artist.

One of Sumner's early works is "First Breath" which depicts a humpback whale mother lifting her newborn to the surface to collect his first breath of air. This was used as the first fine art poster to raise money for the environmental group Greenpeace.

His work "Sweet Liberty", an abstracted version of the Statue of Liberty,[9] was selected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. in 1986.[10] That painting is now housed in the Liberty Island museum. Another painting with this theme, "The Spirit of America", with the statue's base draped in an American flag, was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Lithographs were presented to people and families effected by attacks in New York City and Washington D.C..[11] Sumner created "The Impossible Dream" in 1987, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It was featured as part of the anniversary celebration.[12]

Sumner's painting "The Peacemakers" embodies the theme of World peace and understanding. It depicts two dolphins kissing while floating above the earth. It was presented by Sumner to the then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev on his visit to Stanford University in 1990.[13] Gorbachev saw the piece as Sumner stood with it on the sidewald at Stanford's Hoover Institution, broke from his security detail, and held a five minute discussion with Summer.

Another significant piece in this vein is 1995's "Renewal," painted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations' charter.[14] This piece depicts the Golden Gate Bridge cradling the earth in a rough representation of the United Nations logo.


Sumner participates actively in environmental causes,[15] and promotes the importance of art education. He is a long-time associate and supporter of Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and the Rainforest Action Network. He has donated hundreds of pieces of artwork for fundraisers,[16] produces artwork for particular campaigns, and painted various environmental groups' marine ships (including the bow of the Rainbow Warrior. He also has decorated a series of buses for local transit agencies that are used in elementary school environmental outreach and art education programs.[17][18]

George Sumner and wife Donnalei, Manager and Publicist for Sumner Studios/Galleries for the last twenty-seven years –have successfully blended a loving marriage with a 24/7 family-owned business. Their remarkable success story is based on their company dedicated to using art as a tool to educate people of all ages to respect our planet’s fragile ecosystem.


Sumner's works are ın many private collections around the world. His paintings are also held in many public collections, including:


  • Sumner, George (1999). Fall Arts Festival Artist Biography. Sausalito, California: George Sumner Studios, Inc. p. 1. 


  1. ^ "Environmental artist George Sumner crusades...". Hawaii Magazine. Fancy Publications. 1989. p. 31. 
  2. ^ Barney Davey (2005). How to Profit from the Art Print Market. BoldStar Communications. pp. 210–. ISBN 978-0-9769607-0-6. 
  3. ^ "Zignature: Wining and dining"Gloria Zigner (May 2003). Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. pp. 112–. ISSN 0279-0483. 
  4. ^ a b Robert Sullivan (2000). A Whale Hunt: How a Native-American Village Did What No One Thought It Could. Simon and Schuster. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-0-684-86434-1. 
  5. ^ Species Link. Pegasus Publications. 2006. 
  6. ^ Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (1990). Annual Report.  (unpaged)
  7. ^ Whalewatcher: Journal of the American Cetacean Society. American Cetacean Society. 1983. p. 195. 
  8. ^ a b "Message of life". Honolulu Advertiser, September 20, 2006. By Michael Tsai
  9. ^ Patricia Arrigoni (1 December 2000). Making the Most of Marin: A California Guide. Travel Publishers International. ISBN 978-0-9625468-7-7. 
  10. ^ West Publishing Editorial (1 January 1993). American Government. West. ISBN 978-0-314-02374-2. 
  11. ^ "Artist paints commemorative projects". Art Business News. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Leighty, John (April 15, 1987). "Artist commemorates Golden Gate Bridge". The Bulletin. United Press International. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Zamora, Jim (June 3, 1990). "2 Artists to Offer Gorbachev Visions of Peace". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Snyder, George (June 26, 1995). "Marin County Artist Paints Symbolic Work As Gift to U.N." San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Les Krantz (14 November 1985). American art galleries: the illustrated guide to their art and artists. Facts on File. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8160-0089-0. 
  16. ^ Paul Watson (2003). Seal Wars: Twenty-five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals. Firefly Books. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-55297-751-4. 
  17. ^ Tour & Travel Media (n.d.). "The Iconic Life and Images of George Sumner". California Tour & Travel. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  18. ^ "Whale Artist Inspires Youth". KGO-ABC7 News. 4 March 2003. 

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