Sam Doyle, 1906 – 1985 from Anton Haardt Gallery website

Named Thomas by his parents, Thomas Doyle and Sue Ladson, he went by “Sam.” Born on St. Helena Island, SC on 23 March 1906, he got his early education at the Penn Normal Industrial Agricultural School. Unable to afford an art education, he took jobs as a clerk at the Corner Store in Frogmore, at the MacDonald-Wilkins Company warehouse, and in the Laundry on the Marine Recruit Depot on Parris Island to make ends meet for his wife and three children. He used cast-off materials at hand, like house paint, softened plywood and roofing tin, to paint his colorful and vibrant vision of Gullah life on the sea islands. He displayed and sold his art in his yard. The greater folk art world discovered his work in 1982. He died at the age of 79 on 24 September 1985.

This list of selected links and materials was compiled by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Manager of the Beaufort District Collection.

Latest update: 31 July 2019; Created 10 November 2008.

OnLine resources:

“Gibbes Museum Highlights the Work of African-American Artists with New Exhibition” by Connelly Hardaway, Charleston City Newspaper (Charleston, SC), 25 February 2019.

Sam Doyle“, Uncommon Folk series, for SC Educational Television Carolina Stories [Video], [?2011] (7 minutes) includes filmed segments of Doyle and comments about Doyle’s work by Paul Matheny (SC State Museum), Emory Campbell and Victoria Smalls (Penn Center) and art gallery owner Mary Mack. The segment is posted on Know It All website, a wide assortments of media assets, created by South Carolina ETV for preK-12.

Biography of Sam Doyle” AskArt is a comprehensive art database that is available by subscription. However, access to artist biographies on AskArt is free on Fridays.

Outliers and American Vanguard Art” exhibit review by Genie Davis on Riot Material website, 26 November 2018.

Sam Doyle: Self Taught Genius” in The Island News (Lady’s Island, SC), 5 September 2013.

Sam Doyle Celebration” by Editor in Lowcountry Weekly (Beaufort, SC), 10 September 2013.

Sam Doyle’s Funky Artwork Comes Full Circle on St. Helena Island” by David Lauderdale, Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, SC), 5 October 2013.

“‘Long Overlooked’ Lowcountry Artist Sam Doyle to be Celebrated at ARTworks, Penn Center” by Erin Shaw, Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, SC), 20 September 2013.

Sam Doyle” by Gordon W. Bailey, Self Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum website.

Backus by Sam Doyle

Sam Doyle” (American, 1906-1985), Artnet website of art sales and auction results includes a brief biography and images of more than 10 of his art works.

Sold! A Painting by Self-Taught African American Artist Sam Doyle Drums Up $17,000 at Slotkin Folk Festival” by Sheila Gibson Stoodley, The Hot Bid blog (April 2018?)

The Smithsonian American Art Museum features four works by Sam Doyle: “James Doyle St. Helena’s First Black Driver; Ram Rose; Untitled (Rambling Rose); and Bull Dager.

The Bethany Mission Gallery of Philadelphia, PA specializes in outsider art and includes aa Sam Doyle page with 15 of his paintings.

Works by Sam Doyle were part of the “Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection” exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014.

Doyle in front of his yard gallery, 1982. National Gallery of Art.
Photographer: Roger Manley

“Sam Doyle Painting of Midwife Garners $204,000 at Slotkin Auction” in Auction Central News, 19 May 2014.

Invaluable: The World’s Premier Auctions and Galleries website lists information about art sales and auctions by artist. Sam Doyle has over 20 works of art listed.

A short biographical sketch and small images of some of his artwork appear on the “Sam Doyle, 1906 – 1985” page of the Anton Haardt Gallery website.

Local Heroes: Paintings and Sculptures by Sam Doyle” was posted to accompany the High Museum of Art’s (Atlanta, GA) exhibit in 2000.

Personal Recollections: Collecting Folk Art in Virginia” by Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass appeared in Folk Art Messenger, vol. 14, no. 2, Summer 2001 to accompany an exhibit at the Meadow Farm Museum in Glen Allen, VA that year.

Ancestry & Innovation African American Art from the American Folk Art Museum“, publicized in Antiques and The Arts Weekly magazine on August 25, 2009, was a traveling exhibit of some 40 works in various media produced by self-trained black artists. Featured artists included Clementine Hunter, Nellie Mae Rowe, Willie LeRoy Elliot, Bessie Harvey, Thomas Dial, Sr. and Sam Doyle. The five stop exhibit tour was organized by the American Folk Art Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The exhibit is currently among the “Archived Exhibition” on the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service website.

Artist Spotlight: Sam Doyle (American, 1906 – 1985),” by Pam Wall, Gibbes Museum blog, September 22, 2011

Sam Doyle: Haints and Saints” by Gordon W. Bailey, Raw Vision magazine, vol. 62, Winter 2007 as captured by the WayBack Machine, December 16, 2007

Sam Doyle” Wikipedia, Last edited 13 Jly 2019.

Sam Doyle: The Mind’s Eye – Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection” was on display in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2014. The article discusses Doyle’s gestural figuration style.

Sam Doyle, 1906 – 1985: News from Frogmore” by William Arnett explores how Doyle celebrated Gullah culture. The article is posted on the Souls Grown Deep Foundation website that is “dedicated to documenting, preserving, and promoting the contributions of African American artists from the South, and the cultural traditions in which they are rooted.”

Featured on the Ricco Maresca Gallery website

Sam Doyle, 1906-1985″ is a featured artist on the Ricco Maresca Gallery website that includes a brief biographical sketch and eight of Doyle’s paintings.

An excerpt of the article “Sam Doyle: St. Helena Island’s Native Son” by Regina Perry is available on the Raw Vision magazine website. The article appears in the Raw Vision, Number 23, Summer 1998 issue.

Sam Doyle“: Outliers and American Vanguard Artist Biographies on the National Gallery of Art website.

Sam Doyle“: Outsider Art Fair includes a biography by Gordon W. Bailey as well as a curriculum vitae section with selected exhibitions, collections, and bibliography.

Check out these materials from A SCLENDS Library:

Black Folk Art in America by Jane Livingston, John Beadsley, Regenia Perry, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, University Press of Mississippi, [1982].

Palmetto places : St. Helena Island [DVD] by SC Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, [2006?].

Sam Doyle, 1906-1985, edited by Louanne LaRouche, Kyoto Shoin, 1989.

Come to the Beaufort District Collection to see these items:

Doyle, Sam (Artist) [BDC Vertical File]

704 LIV Black Folk Art in America by Jane Livingston, John Beadsley, Regenia Perry, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, University Press of Mississippi, [1982].

704 SAM Sam Doyle edited by Louanne LaRouche, Kyoto Shoin, 1989

SC 704.03965 SPR Local Heroes: Paintings and Sculpture by Sam Doyle by Lynne E. Spriggs, 2000.

SC Poster #19 & SC Poster #82 Sam Doyle Celebration Paintings from Private Collections @ Opening Reception … Sunday Sep 22 through October 6, 2013 [2013]

SC 305.896 KUY African Voices in the African American Heritage by Betty M. Kuyk, 2003.

917.5799 PAL Palmetto places [DVD] : St. Helena Island by SC Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, [2006?]. This video includes visits to the Chapel of Ease, The Penn School, the Hallelujah Singers, the Red Piano II Art Gallery (& Jonathan Green and Sam Doyle), the Gullah House Restaurant & Cooking School (how to make oyster stew with Sherry & Mark McRae), and a netmaker named Frank Brown.

Note: The Beaufort District Collection (BDC) exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of the South Carolina lowcountry wedged between the Combahee (pronounced “kum-bee”) and Savannah Rivers.

Contact the Beaufort District Collection at 843-255-6468 or e-mail for additional information about local history and archives relating to the people, places, and themes of the history, culture, and natural environment of Beaufort County, Jasper County and Hampton County, South Carolina.

Please check the Beaufort County Library (SC) system’s homepage for current hours of operation and locations.

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