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Sami Suomalainen (December 30 1941 - September 13, 2019) was one of Canada's most prolific and gifted modern artists, whose work included landscapes, commissioned portraits, book and periodical illustrations. Sami's satirical illustrations have been published in a number of leading news journals but he is best loved for his illustrations in numerous children's books which have been sold worldwide in all major languages.
Sami was born in Tuupovaara, Finland, the younger son of Otso Suomalainen and Helvi Sippola. Sami exhibited his artistic talent at an early age, winning his first prize as an artist at the age of four from the Fazer Company. Following his graduation from high school, he completed his art education in Helsinki. He spent some time as a seaman on Finnish and Norwegian merchant ships before immigrating to Canada in the mid-1960's. He settled in Toronto, where he attended Ryerson University, following which he worked as a full-time artist and illustrator. In 1966, he married his wife June, who predeceased him in July, 2019.
Sami was also an accomplished musician, playing both classical and flamenco guitar, and he composed a series of instrumental guitar pieces. In addition, Sami was an active member of Toronto's arts community and Toronto's Finnish community and volunteered in many charitable undertakings and community projects. Both he and June supported a number of philanthropic causes. Sami and June were avid travellers who experienced life to the fullest, and their experiences with other cultures are reflected in the stylistic breadth of Sami's artistic works.
Sami's artistic style is impressionistic and he was adept at using a wide variety of artistic mediums to create his work, including wood, photography, pen and ink, oils, watercolours and acrylics.
Sami's paintings are in numerous important art collections in North America, Europe and Scandinavia and in the Art Collection of the Library and Archives Canada.
Sami has been the subject of three documentary films by the Finnish National Television and Radio Association in Helsinki, Finland, Rogers Cable Television in co-operation with the Canadian Multicultural Program in Toronto, Ontario and Yleisradio Oy, the Finnish national public broadcasting company.
The Estate of Sami Suomalainen is dedicated to preserving the artistic legacy of this iconic and extraordinarily gifted Canadian artist. To see a few examples of Sami's many expressionistic styles, click on the categories at the left.
We are also pleased to be able to offer selected paintings and illustrations from Sami's personal collection for sale through our online gallery. For more information about our current offerings, please click on the tab to the left.
“When I was a boy I'd have laughed at the idea of a man hugging a cat. Now I'm just the opposite. I could sniff a flower all day and not feel bad about it” quote by Sami Suomalainen, Toronto Star, March 22, 1980.