Violet Oakley

USA / 1874 - 1961 / wikipedia /
Born at Bergen Heights, New Jersey, into an artistic dynasty, Violet once remarked that her own interest in art was "hereditary and chronic" and maintained that she was born with a paintbrush in her mouth instead of a silver spoon. (

Violet Oakley (June 10, 1874-Feb. 25, 1961); first American woman to receive a public mural commission. During the first quarter of the 20th century, she was renowned as a pathbreaker in mural decoration, a field that had been exclusively practiced by men. Oakley excelled at murals and stained glass designs that addressed themes from history and literature in Renaissance-revival styles....

She had early success as a popular illustrator for magazines including Collier's Weekly and Woman's Home Companion. The style of her illustrations and stained glass reflects her emulation of the English Pre-Raphaelites. Oakley's commitment to Victorian aesthetics during the advent of Modernism led to the decline of her reputation by the middle of the 20th century.

Oakley's political beliefs were shaped by the Quaker William Penn, whose ideals she represented in her murals at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. She became committed to the Quaker principles of pacifism, equality of the races and sexes, economic and social justice, and international government.

Oakley and her friends, the artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith, all former students of Pyle, were named the Red Rose girls by him. The 3 illustrators received the Red Rose Girls nickname while they lived together in the Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania from 1899 to 1901.

Oakley painted a series of 43 murals in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg for the Governors Grand Reception Room, the Senate and the Supreme Court....

Other work includes:

Two murals and stained glass work for All Angels Church, New York City, her first commission, 1900
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


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