The Art Buyer’s Guide to Rhode Island

Read on to discover your new favorite artist, gallery or curator, as well as expert tips on framing, etiquette and collecting.

Tales from the Trade



Jemison Faust, mixed media artist
First buy: I still have the first piece I ever bought for $30 from an artist friend, David Whitmore, in 1959 called “Portrait of the Artist as a Cartoon.” It’s been hanging in my studio for a long time and I simply never tire of it. It retains all that I love in his work: quirky humor, solid good painting, clear intention and a kind of quiet slyness.

First sell: As for selling my own work, that would be around 1974 at my MFA show from the Museum School in Boston. There is an important distinction to be made here, however, since that sale was to friends and it is totally different to sell to a stranger who is simply moved by the work. (Eventually friends and family get “full” — no matter how much they love you or your work!) That came later, in a show at the Wheeler Gallery in Providence in 1985 and thankfully continues to this day at Atelier Newport in our fair city.

DID YOU KNOW? In 2013, Rhode Island became the first in the nation to create a statewide sales tax exemption for original and limited edition works of art.

Rhode to Recognition

Artwork by these late, great Rhode Island artists — all of whom died in poverty or obscurity — garner top dollar at twenty-first-century art auctions.


Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828)
Recent sale: “Portrait of George Washington,” 1798
Auction date: November 2015
Price: $1.025 million
Artist fact: Stuart’s image of George Washington has appeared on the $1 bill for nearly 150 years and, in his heyday, the famed portraitist was one of the best-paid artists in the world. But he left his family in great debt and was buried in an unmarked grave. When the family saved enough money to move him, they could not locate his remains. His birthplace in North Kingstown now serves as a museum with a working gristmill, trails, art exhibitions and sales by local artists. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.


artNancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890–1960)
Recent sale: “Untitled (Head),” circa 1930
Auction date: February 2014
Price: $35,000
Artist fact: The sculptor, who grew up in Warwick, was the first black woman to graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design. After twelve years building her career in Paris, Prophet returned to the U.S. to teach art in Georgia, then moved back to Rhode Island to escape the South’s racial segregation. She worked as a maid before her death in 1960. Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.



artEdward Mitchell Bannister (1828–1901)
Recent sale: “Forest Interior,” circa 1890
Auction date: May 2010
Price: $17,775
Artist fact: Well-known during his lifetime, the artist — who was born in Canada and moved to New England in his early twenties — was largely unknown following his death. His Tonalist paintings regained popularity during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1978, Rhode Island College dedicated its gallery in his honor. Image courtesy of Skinner, Inc.



Felix De Weldon (1907–2003)
Recent sale: John F. Kennedy bronze bust, 1963
Auction date: November 2013
Price: $15,000
Artist fact: The sculptor, who is best known for his work on the Iwo Jima memorial, purchased the historic Beacon Rock mansion in Newport in the 1950s, where he lived for forty years before losing the property to financial hardship. Image courtesy of McInnis Auctioneers. –C.N.