St. Helena Island, South Carolina, 1906; died Beaufort, South Carolina,1985.
Sam Doyle came from a Gullah community on, St. Helena Island, one of the barrier islands off the coast of South Carolina. During his youth, Doyle attended the historic Penn School on the island, where his artistic inclinations were encouraged. As a young adult he lived off the island for a number of years and held jobs as a porter and laundry worker, returning in 1943. In his early sixties, Doyle began to focus more intently on making art. He wanted to represent figures of importance to the African American people and to record St. Helena individuals who were significant to the island’s character and history. Doyle’s gallery of personalities, painted with loose, expressionistic brushwork on found materials (often roofing or siding sheet metal), filled his yard. His reputation was established when he was included in the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s 1982 show Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980
in Washington, D.C.
See his work in Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, open now through June 9 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.