Wilfred I. Duphiney, 1884-1960, Rhode Island’s most prolific and most viewed portraitist of the Twentieth Century, was born in the mill village Central Falls in 1884.
His public school education led to his enrollment in the Rhode Island School of Design where he eventually graduated to the faculty and taught at this prestigious art school for nearly forty years. His world was centered on College Hill–RISD, the Providence Art Club, the Providence Watercolor Club, and his studio near the Art Club in the Fleur-de-Lys House at 7 Thomas Street.
Working from his studio and in the homes or offices of clients–many of whom were prominent Rhode Islanders–Duphiney painted “the faces of Rhode Island” according to his online gallery maintained by his granddaughter Laura Sebastianelli. As his fine visage of early 19th reformer Thomas Wilson Dorr indicates, Duphiney also painted historical luminaries. His huge full-length portrait of Commodore John Barry in the Governor’s Reception Room at the State House is the most conspicuous example of his historical portraiture. Fifteen of his works adorn the State House walls.
For the most part, however, Wilfred painted live people–family, friends, and the locally famous. His brush was non-partisan. His portraits include Republican state chairman Frederick S. Peck and House Speaker Rob Roy Rawlings and such Democratic potentates as Governors William S. Flynn, Theodore Frances Green, Dennis J. Roberts, and John O. Pastore. Roman Catholic bishops William Hickey and Russell J. McVinney also chose Duphiney to execute their official portrait. This artist of many faces died in Providence on August 10, 1960.
(Dr.) Patrick T. Conley