Violet Oakley

I have always loved Violet Oakley’s murals.  They are like jewels on walls.

Violet Oakley (1874-1961) was an American painter, author, teacher and speaker.  Her art blended Pre-Raphaelitism and Art Deco and contained a hint of Impressionism.  Her themes were peace and equality, depicted in historical and literary allegories.  Among her many works were stained glass, book and magazine illustrations, portraits, manuscript illuminations, posters and, especially, murals.  Her murals adorn the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Germantown First Presbyterian Church, the Fleisher Art Memorial, Vassar College and numerous other sites.  Oakley also published Law Triumphant, a portfolio of portraits of League of Nations delegates and other dignitaries.  She was awarded the Gold Medal from the Saint Louis International Exposition, the Gold Medal of Honor from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Medal of Honor from the Panama–Pacific International Exposition.

Oakley was greatly influenced by Quaker testimonies.  Her interest was inspired by William Penn, whose life she had researched for the Pennsylvania State Capitol murals.  A supporter of the League of Nations and the United Nations, she was also a nuclear disarmament activist.  She was a feminist, too, demanding parity in fees with male painters.  Quaker painter Howard Pyle was her teacher and mentor.  After receiving healing from asthma, she became a Christian Scientist, though she always retained Friendly beliefs.

A quote:

“In time I became so impressed by the belief or testimony of the Quakers against carnal warfare that this idea, the victory of law, or truth over force, became the central idea of my life”.

Below is “Penn’s Vision”, a mural at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg.

Gary Sandman

November 2021

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