Portrait Commission

Proposal to Select an Artist for a Portrait of Yale’s First Women PhDs

The Yale Women Faculty Forum seeks to commission a portrait honoring the first seven women to earn PhDs at Yale and commemorating the opening of the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to women in 1892. These pioneering alumnae were among the first women to earn doctorates in the United States. The portrait will be displayed in the nave of Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.

Archival research by the Yale Women Faculty Forum has yielded photographs of six of the seven women, along with information about their scholarship, fields of study, and professional accomplishments. For the one woman whose picture is not available yet, we have a photograph of her sister. An article on the 7 women with photographs that appeared in the Yale Alumni magazine can be accessed with this link: http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/articles/3518.


Traditional or contemporary interpretations in painting, photography, or assemblage are welcome. The following points are guidelines:

  1. Size: The finished, framed portrait will be placed on a wall 6 feet wide and 10 feet high.  The size should be comparable to existing portraits in the surrounding space which are of the library’s architect, J. Gamble Rogers (4x5ft, directly across from the WFF portrait’s intended location); John William Sterling (4x5ft), and Edward Bouchet, the first African American man to earn a PhD in the US (3x4ft, on a pendant wall).  Format can be horizontal or vertical. The nave of Sterling Memorial Library is being renovated but images of the column where the portrait will be hung can be found at wff.yale.edu.  Artists selected for the final review process will be allowed to enter the space upon appointment. 
  2. For painting: oil paint on properly treated linen canvas.
  3. For photography: a duplicate copy will be required, to be held in reserve for future exhibition should the first image deteriorate.
  4. Proposed portrait should incorporate likenesses of all seven women (based on available photographs) as well as elements representing their diverse fields of study (Chemistry, Astronomy, English Literature, History and Romance Languages).  
  5. Artists may view architect’s sketches of the portrait’s intended location at the following URL: http://lgdata.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/docs/169/818580/SMLNaveCircDeskDrawing.jpg.

Selection process

The deadline for submitting proposals was February 1, 2014.

Finalists were notified and sent images of the women and other historical material. By mid-August, they must submit (1) a detailed image of the proposed portrait; (2) a written statement describing the proposed portrait; and (3) the cost of the commission. A small honorarium will be provided to each semifinalist.

Final decision by the Selection Committee will occur within 6 weeks of receiving all sketches. Portrait delivery and installation is expected within one year.