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J. B. Penn

Folk and Self-Taught Art

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J. B. Penn

Artwork Details


Sam Doyle
American, 1906–1985


ca. 1975–1983


House paint on tin

Accession #



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Currently Not on View


Sam Doyle was an African American artist who spent most of his life on Saint Helena Island, off the coast of South Carolina. This work depicts a master basket maker at Saint Helena’s Penn School, founded by Quakers in 1862 to educate newly freed slaves. It forms part of Doyle’s Penn series commemorating the school, which he attended until family hardship forced him to withdraw in order to work.

Doyle’s time at the Penn School imbued him with respect for history and sharpened his appreciation of his own culture. With its soft but sure color, economy of expression, and lyrical interplay of forms, this painting exemplifies Sam Doyle at his best.


Purchase with funds from Alfred Austell Thornton in memory of Leila Austell Thornton and Albert Edward Thornton, Sr., and Sarah Miller Venable and William Hoyt Venable, and through the generosity of Gordon W. Bailey