Dorcas Cooke Doolittle
Portrait of a Woman (Margaret Breckenridge), undated
Oil on canvas, 12” x 10”

Museum purchase, 2012

Though small in size, Doolittle’s portrait of Margaret Breckenridge commands attention. Head tilted up, eyes looking down and to the side, Breckenridge seems caught in a moment of uncertainty. The strong, warm yellow and pink tones of her face are dramatically juxtaposed with cool shadows of blue, green, and violet. Breckenridge was the wife of Hugh Breckenridge, Doolittle’s instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Born in Philadelphia, Doolittle graduated from a female seminary, and then enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art & Design), where she studied illustration. Later, she attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where her instructors included Breckenridge and Arthur B. Carles. Doolittle had a studio at 17th and Chestnut Streets where other women, including Quita Brodhead, would paint and share the expense of models. Carles came once a week to critique their work. Doolittle exhibited her work regularly and continued to paint and teach.


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