Face to Face

By Chad Galts / March / April 1998
December 28th, 2007
Last august someone crept into Sayles Hall and cut the painting of Sarah E. Doyle, a turn-of-the-century Providence educator and women's rights activist, out of its frame. Despairing of ever finding the painting undamaged, the University turned to its neighbor down the hill, the Rhode Island School of Design, for help in creating a replacement. RISD owns the portrait of Doyle that inspired the Sayles painting, which had long been considered an inferior copy.



RISD senior Bryan Konietzko finishes his replacement portrait of Sarah E. Doyle, based on the 1902 original, at right, by Cecilia Beaux.


Over several months last fall and winter, RISD senior Bryan Konietzko painted yet another Doyle portrait to replace the one stolen from Sayles. Working from the original, which was created in 1902 by Providence artist Cecilia Beaux, Konietzko began his work in the gallery space of the RISD Museum; but poor lighting and troops of noisy kids on school tours made the task difficult, he says. Once Konietzko had convinced the museum's curators to let him work in the painting storage area - "where you're not even supposed to take pens," he says - he was able to sit face-to-face with Beaux's painting.

"She is one of the thinnest painters I've ever seen," he says of Beaux's technique. "Her brush strokes are almost transparent. By the time I got some of the colors right I already had three or four layers of paint built up." He adds, "It looks like she really had fun on the last day she worked on it. She was sneaking in little dashes of intense color in places where they make no sense."

Konietzko finished Doyle's portrait in late January, and sometime this spring the person most active in urging that Brown admit women will be looking down from the venerable walls of Sayles again.

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March / April 1998