Celebrate Women’s History Month by exploring the art and history of pioneering muralist Violet Oakley through a newly launched digital archive from the Woodmere Art Gallery, owner of the largest collection of drawings and paintings by the artist. “The Violet Oakley Experience” offers visitors a chance to delve into the full range of Oakley’s work, from major commissions like the Pennsylvania State Capital building to illustrations and portraits of friends and dignitaries.
The Woodmere Art Gallery has recently launched a new program: “The Violet Oakley Experience.” It doesn’t offer any rides, but it does offer an engaging digital archive of the museum’s extensive collection of works by Oakley.
Violet Oakley (1874-1961) might be considered the painter laureate of Chestnut Hill, despite having lived mostly in Mount Airy. From 1905 until her death, she lived with various women friends in a house called “Cogslea” on Saint George’s Road, courtesy of Gertrude & George Woodward. The house, renovated by the Philadelphia architects Day & Klauder, remains today in private hands, overlooking the picturesque Cresheim Valley.
Born into a family of artists, she studied in New York and Europe but then came to Philadelphia to study at both the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and the Drexel Institute (now Drexel University). Here she studied under the famed illustration artist, Howard Pyle, and developed her own personal style.
Both her life and career were groundbreaking, particularly for a woman artist at that time.
She started working as an illustration artist, but in 1902 won the commission for a first group of major murals at the recently completed Pennsylvania State Capital building. She eventually painted a total of 43 murals in various parts of the building over the next 20 years.