Wilfred Israel Duphiney

Inducted: 2015
Born: 1884
Died: 1960

Wilfred I. Duphiney, Rhode Island’s most prolific and most viewed portraitist of the Twentieth Century, was born in the mill village of Central Falls on May 18, 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.

He made a living from commissioned portraits of mostly Rhode Islanders and illustration work. Some of his best portraits were not commissioned but were the faces of family and friends he thought interesting. 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 indicated, 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. Many of his works adorn the State House walls, including:

Governors: Thomas Dorr, Arnold Lemuel, Nicholas Cooke, William Flynn, William Greene, John Pastore, San Souci, Charles Van Zandt, Richard Ward, and J. Howard McGrath.

Speakers of the Rhode House of Representatives: Hugo Clason, Harry Curvin, and James Kiernan.  

For the most part, however, Wilfred painted family, friends, and the locally famous. His brush was non-partisan. His portraits include Republican state chairman Frederick S. Peck, 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 chose Duphiney to execute their official portrait.

Duphiney is remembered as a patient, kind, and memorable teacher by many of his students during his 40-year career at the Rhode Island School of Design. Like all great art teachers, Duphiney was deeply committed and believed nothing was more important than students and art. He put time and energy into his profession and worked long hours to help his students shine. He consistently challenged his students to create, plan, and prepare meaningful projects. Duphiney was also a lifetime learner. Great art educators want to see their students grow and push themselves to learn new things. They also inspire students by creating a climate of change. Duphiney recognized that our society and workforce need creative thinkers more than ever. His enthusiasm kept his students excited and engaged, which usually meant they were learning. He was always ready to create art, exhibit it, and share his talent with his students.

His works are in the RI State House, Providence City Hall, URI. RISD, the Providence Art Club, Catholic Diocese of Providence, libraries, hospitals, and family homes throughout Rhode Island and in private collections throughout the world. He has five paintings on display at Brown University, including:

1. Oil portrait, “Thomas Baird Appleget”

2. Oil portrait, “Walter Samuel Hunter”

3. Oil portrait, “Samuel Tomlinson Arnold”

4. Oil portrait, “Bruce Bigelow”

5. Oil portrait, “Benjamin Williams Brown”

Wilfred Duphiney died in Providence on August 10, 1960. He was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2015.

For additional reading:

·      Duphinrysfacesofri.blogspot.com

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