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Sam Doyle

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Sam Doyle
Sam Doyle in St. Helena, South Carolina, surrounded by his paintings
Thomas Samuel Doyle

Died1985(1985-00-00) (aged 78–79)
Known forPainting, Out Door Art Gallery
MovementModern Art

Thomas "Sam" Doyle (1906–1985) was an African-American artist from Saint Helena Island, South Carolina.[1] His colorful paintings on sheet metal and wood recorded the history and people of St. Helena's Gullah community.

Early life


Sam Doyle was born in 1906 near Frogmore, on St. Helena Island.[2] He attended elementary school at the Penn School, a school for freed African-Americans founded by Unitarians and Quakers from Pennsylvania.[3] It was at the Penn School that Doyle's teachers first recognized his artistic talent and they encouraged him to pursue his practice.[3][4] Doyle dropped out of the Penn school in the ninth grade and found employment variously as a store clerk, porter, groundskeeper and finally as a laundry worker.[5][6][7]

He married Maude Brown in 1931 or 1932; the two divorced in 1949.[8] Doyle died in 1985 in Beaufort, South Carolina.[2]

Art practice


Doyle continued his art practice in the 1940s, showing his paintings on sheet metal at first in his yard that he called his "Outdoor World-Wide-International Gallery".[9][10][11] Doyle would use discarded materials such as metal roofing, plywood, and house paint for his art, exhibiting a rudimentary, but unique art style.[12] After his retirement he took up his art practice more fully in 1968.[5][13]

Doyle was heavily influence by the Gullah culture of St. Helena Island, known for its high levels of African retention.[14] Doyle documented the strengths, weaknesses, trials, and blunders of his fellow St. Helena residents through painting their portraits. Doyle also documented popular figures of the African American community. Legends like Ray Charles, Martin Luther King Jr, and Jackie Robinson were portrayed in Doyle's collection.[15]

Doyle's work was included in the 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.[16]



Doyle's paintings and sculptures are held in the permanent collections of American Folk Art Museum,[17] the High Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum,[18] the Pérez Art Museum Miami,[19] the Gibbes Museum of Art[20] and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[21][22] and Penn Center (Penn School on St. Helena Island).


  1. ^ "Sam Doyle: The Mind's Eye — Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection | LACMA". lacma.org. 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Sam Doyle".
  3. ^ a b Coker, Gylbert Garvin; Arnett, William (2001). "Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South". African American Review. 35 (4): 660. doi:10.2307/2903291. ISSN 1062-4783. JSTOR 2903291.
  4. ^ Wertkin, Gerard C. (2 August 2004). Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Routledge. ISBN 9781135956158 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Cardinal, Roger; Ala.), Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham; Kogan, Lee; Larsen, Susan C.; Patterson, Tom; Perry, Regenia (24 June 1995). Pictured in My Mind: Contemporary American Self-taught Art from the Collection of Kurt Gitter and Alice Rae Yelen. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9780878058778 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ packet.com. "'Long overlooked' Lowcountry artist Sam Doyle to be celebrated at ARTworks, Penn Center". islandpacket.
  7. ^ "Red Piano Too Art Gallery & Penn Center to host Sam Doyle Art Exhibit and Festival March 11 & 12 – Beaufort South Carolina the Island News".
  8. ^ Congdon, Kristin G.; Hallmark, Kara Kelley (24 June 2019). American Folk Art: A Regional Reference. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313349362 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ packet.com. "Sam Doyle's funky artwork comes full circle on St. Helena Island". islandpacket.
  10. ^ "Exhibition: Sam Doyle: The Mind's Eye - Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection" (PDF). lacma.org. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  11. ^ Crown, Carol; Rivers, Cheryl; Wilson, Charles Reagan (2013-06-03). The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 23: Folk Art. ISBN 9781469607993.
  12. ^ Gordon, Bailey. "Sam Doyle". Outside Art Fair.
  13. ^ "ABE. KANE". collection.folkartmuseum.org/.
  14. ^ Bailey, Gordon (2014). "Sam Doyle: Self-Taught Genius". American Folk Art Museum.
  15. ^ "Sam Doyle | Souls Grown Deep Foundation". www.soulsgrowndeep.org. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  16. ^ Maresca, Frank; Ricco, Roger; Rexer, Lyle (26 October 1993). American self-taught: paintings and drawings by outsider artists. Knopf. ISBN 9780394582122 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Sam Doyle – Artists – eMuseum".
  18. ^ "Sam Doyle".
  19. ^ Armstrong, Annie (2019-08-05). "As U.S. Museums Work to Build Folk and Vernacular Art Collections, Pérez Art Museum Miami Scores a Trove". ARTnews.com. Retrieved 2023-08-22.
  20. ^ "Ike, ca. 1982, by Sam Doyle".
  21. ^ "Sam Doyle | LACMA Collections".
  22. ^ "Works by Sam Doyle from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection on view at LACMA".