DOYLE, WILLIAM MASSEY STROUD
a painter of pastel and oil portraits, silhouettes, and watercolor miniatures, as well as a museum proprietor, plied his profession principally in Boston during the earlynineteenth century. Possibly the son of a British officer stationed in Boston before the American Revolution, Doyle was born there in 1769. He was married twice, firstto Mary Clifton, on August 20, 1792, and subsequently to Polly Polfrey, on November 27, 1797. His daughter, Margaret Byron Doyle (later Mrs. John Chorley), alsoworked as an artist, at least during the second and third decades of the nineteenth century.Presumably working initially as a wallpaper stainer and manufacturer, by 1803 Doyle was recorded in Boston directories as being associated with the ColumbianMuseum on Milk Street (later on Tremont Street). Founded by showman and artist Daniel Bowen in 1795, this institution offered a variety of attractions, from waxfigures and marble statues to natural and artificial curiosities. It was under Bowen’s tutelage that Doyle probably first learned to cut silhouettes and paint portraits. Inaddition to executing full-size likenesses in oil and pastel, Doyle, with the aid of a physiognotrace used to create likenesses, was charging in 1804 from twenty-five centsto two dollars for profiles. A year later he had added miniatures, which could be purchased for between twelve and twenty dollars, to his repertoire. In 1825 thecontents of the Columbian Museum were sold to artist Ethan Allen Greenwood (1779–1856), proprietor of the New England Museum. Doyle continued to beassociated with this institution until at least 1827.Doyle executed likenesses in a variety of mediums, but he is recognized today primarily for his full-size pastel portraits, depicting either adults, in bust or half-length,or children, in full-length compositions. Signed by the artist,
Child of the May Family
(1806) is his earliest known pastel. Seated in a Windsor-style chair, this beautiful blond-haired subject is portrayed playing with a toy horse. As was characteristic of Doyle’s known portraits of children, he recorded his sitter’s appearance against aneutral background devoid of extraneous details except for the ornately patterned, ingrained carpeting, which defines the composition as an indoor scene. Doyle’s lastknown likeness, dated May 3, 1828, is a self-portrait done approximately two weeks before his death from consumption.
Ethan Allen Greenwood; Miniatures;
Painting, American Folk; Papercutting
Silhouettes: A History and Dictionary of Artists.
New York, 1981.Kern, Arthur, and Sybil Kern. “The Pastel Portraits of William M.S. Doyle.”
vol. 13 (fall 1988): 41–47.