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1874-1961
Violet Oakley: American Imagist

Oakley painting hangingUnlike so many other illustrators, Violet Oakley's family was mostly artists. Consequently, she did not have to struggle to gain permission to study art and as a young girl in Bergen Heights, New Jersey. She was encouraged to attend the Art Students League, which she followed later with many trips to Europe. With two grandfathers members of the National Academy of Design, she described her infatuation with illustration as 'hereditary and chronic.'

In 1896, Violet Oakley returned to the USA and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but within a year she changed her focus and left for the Drexel Institute School of Illustration to study under Howard Pyle. It was while she was at Drexel that she met her beloved colleagues, illustrators par excellence Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith. Like Maxfield Parrish, Oakley attributed the Pre-Raphaelites with a great influence upon her style as well as Howard Pyle, whose contributions to her career are not unsung. Pyle immediately recognized her talents, her sense of color and composition and her deft handling of large artworks. He felt that her greatest ability was in the large-scale works and encouraged that pursuit although it would mean few smaller scale commissions. Ms. Oakley may have been the only illustration student whose work Pyle admired but that he encouraged to go in a different direction - other than illustration. He continually got her commissions for murals and stained glass windows whenever possible, yet she continued to do smaller illustrations whenever the opportunity presented.

Violet Oakley completed one of her most significant commissions in 1902, "The Creation and Preservation of the Union," which consisted of a series of large murals for the walls of the Governor's Reception Room in the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The extraordinary working studies for the murals were issued in a portfolio as limited edition art prints, therefore are illustrations by definition. The finished paintings were a magnificent expression of Oakley's fondness for history and the talent she had honed through years of struggle as a pioneering female illustrator in a mostly male-dominated profession. Elements of historical accuracy are merged eloquently with sturdy skills acquired under the tutelage of Howard Pyle. That commission took four years during which she also painted illustrations from time to time.

In 1911, Edwin Austin Abbey died while working on a project with Ms. Oakley, and she was thusly awarded the balance of his work as well. During the next 19 years, she completed the murals and also illustrated six illuminated manuscripts, and a book on the murals. A committed artist of great integrity, she documented her works well, had numerous exhibitions, and worked up until the day she died in 1961.




Mission

  • Edwin Austin Abbey
  • Constantin Alajalov
  • Rolf Armstrong
  • Stanley Arthurs
  • Clifford Ashley
  • John Atherton
  • William Aylward
  • Joyce Ballantyne
  • McClelland Barclay
  • Cecil Calvert Beall
  • Arthur Becher
  • Mary Jane Begin
  • WT Benda
  • Gerrit Beneker
  • Anna Whelan Betts
  • Ethel Franklin Betts
  • Walter Biggs
  • Edwin Blashfield
  • Enoch Bolles
  • Franklin Booth
  • S Cole Bradley
  • Paul Bransom
  • F Sands Brunner
  • Duane Bryers
  • Al Buell
  • Edward Ulreich Buk
  • Charles Livingston Bull
  • Clara M Burd
  • Hal Burrows
  • Harrison Cady
  • Howard Chandler Christy
  • Frederick Stuart Church
  • Benton Clark
  • Matt Clark
  • John Clymer
  • Dean Cornwell
  • Douglas Crockwell
  • George Hughes
  • Peter Hurd
  • EO Hurst
  • Henry Hutt
  • Elbert McGran Jackson
  • Robert C Kauffman
  • JF Kernan
  • Rockwell Kent
  • WHD Koerner
  • John LaFarge
  • John LaGatta
  • FX Leyendecker
  • JC Leyendecker
  • Henry Linnell
  • George Luks
  • Reginald Marsh
  • Richard Field Maynard
  • Frederic Kimball Mizen
  • Thomas Moran
  • Rudy Nappi
  • Thomas Nast
  • Thornton Oakley
  • Violet Oakley
  • Cushman Parker
  • Maxfield Parrish
  • Edward Penfield
  • George Petty
  • Coles Phillips
  • Henry Pitz
  • Edward Potthast
  • Maurice Prendergast
  • Norman Price
  • Howard Pyle
  • Ethel Ream
  • Sidney Reisenberg
  • Frederick Remington
  • Louis Rhead
  • Norman Rockwell
  • Alex Ross
  • Charles M Russell
  • Russell Sambrook
  • Mead Schaeffer
  • Jes Schlaikjer
  • Frank E Schoonover
  • Remington Schuyler
  • Barbara Shermund
  • Everret Shinn
  • John Sloan
  • Jessie Willcox Smith
  • Walter Granville Smith
  • Henry J Soulen
  • Paul Stahr
  • Alice Barber Stephens
  • Herbert Morton Stoops
  • Haddon Sundblom
  • Saul Tepper
  • Leslie Thrasher
  • George T Tobin
  • Alton Tobey
  • Rico Tomaso
  • Charles Twelvetrees
  • Alberto Vargas
  • Elihu Vedder
  • Harold von Schmidt
  • Colonel Charles Waterhouse
  • Thomas Webb
  • Sarah Stilwell Weber
  • Albert Beck Wenzell
  • Andrew Wyeth
  • Jamie Wyeth
  • NC Wyeth