Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed November 7, 1997
Contact: Kristen Lans

Returning soon to Sayles Hall

Brown to replace portrait of Sarah Doyle, advocate for women students

Brown University's portrait of Sarah E. Doyle (1830-1922), stolen in August, will be replaced with a copy of what is considered to be a better portrait from the Rhode Island School of Design. RISD student Bryan Konietzko recently began the two-month project, and the new portrait may hang in Sayles Hall by the end of the year.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Three months after its portrait of Sarah E. Doyle was stolen from Sayles Hall and probably damaged beyond repair, Brown University has commissioned a copy that will return Doyle to her place among portraits of Brown's historical leaders. Doyle, a suffragist and prominent local educator, was the woman who was most responsible for the first admission of women to Brown University in 1891. She was also a charter member of the Rhode Island School of Design Board of Trustees.

The new Sarah E. Doyle portrait, however, will not look like the old one.

The new portrait will be a duplicate of one owned by the Rhode Island School of Design. It was painted in 1902 by Cecilia Beaux, and is considered to be a better work than the one stolen from Sayles Hall. The missing portrait, painted in 1910, is believed to have been inspired by the earlier Beaux portrait but created by a less-accomplished artist.

The project brings attention to the talent of Beaux, who had to struggle for recognition during her lifetime because of criticism to women working.

Beaux, like her subject, was an advocate for women's rights. Neither Beaux nor Doyle married, and both devoted their lives to their work. Doyle (1830-1922) was a leading educator in Providence for more than four decades. Her successful fund raising led to the construction of Pembroke Hall at Brown University 100 years ago, and assured the establishment of a Women's College at Brown. Beaux (1855-1942) became a professional artist at a time when such a role was frowned upon in American society. But, "it is not well to be made of glass," she wrote in her diary, "if one is a locomotive."

Despite attitudes of the time, Beaux's work gained a following based on its merit. Her work is often compared favorably with that of American portraitist John Singer Sargent. In the same year she painted Doyle, Beaux also traveled to the White House to create a portrait of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt.

"[Commissioning a copy of the RISD portrait] gives us a chance to get a better picture, but it is also more satisfying to know it was painted by Cecilia Beaux, whose interests were consistent with Sarah Doyle's," said Brown University Curator Robert P. Emlen.

The artist hired to create the copy of the Beaux portrait for Brown, said he will remain true to Cecilia Beaux's vision. Bryan Konietzko, 21, a senior student at the Rhode Island School of Design, said the art of copying is primarily in the wrist: The vision that inspired the painting remains that of the original artist.

Konietzko recently began work on the copy, projecting a slide of the original onto his canvas to establish the correct proportions. He will soon take his easel to the Museum of Art at RISD and paint next to the original. The project is expected to take two months and the new portrait may hang at Brown by the end of the year.

Brown's original portrait of Doyle was discovered missing from Sayles Hall on Aug. 20, the canvas crudely snipped from its frame. Even if it is returned, the canvas may be beyond restoration. The way it was stolen would likely have caused the paint to buckle and flake off the canvas.