MG 363 - Oakley, Violet Collection

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Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence to Herman Miller, Librarian of the Senate of Pennsylvania from Violet Oakley concerning a "Key to the Paintings," 1917-1919; an invitation and program for the Unveiling Ceremonies of the Violet Oakley Mural Paintings in the Senate Chamber, Capitol Building, 1917 with a copy of "Pennsylvania, Official Song of the Keystone State," which was sung at the ceremony; a sketch of the paintings on the North Wall and an explanation of the paintings by Miss Oakley; a supplement of the Public Ledger, 1913, with color reproductions of the fifteen mural paintings in the Governor's Reception Room in the State Capitol; and a large leather-bound volume of "The Holy Experiment, A Message to the World from Pennsylvania," a limited edition, with the color plates of the paintings by Violet Oakley in the Governor's Reception Room and the Senate Chamber with manuscript and notes by the artist, 1922.


Violet Oakley (1874-1961) was born into a family of professional and amateur artists. She was trained from her earliest years for an artistic profession. She studied in New York, Philadelphia, and abroad, as well as with prestigious artists of the day. In 1896 she was admitted into Howard Pyle's illustration class at Drexel University. She, thus, began her career as an illustrator. In 1900 she received her first major commission at All Angels Church in New York City. In 1902 Joseph Huston, architect of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, commissioned Miss Oakley to Paint thirteen murals for the Governor's Reception Room. This was the "first time in the history of American art a woman is to be entrusted with the mural decoration of a great public building." In 1911 Edwin Austin Abbey died before beginning murals for the Senate Chamber and the Supreme Court Room and Miss Oakley was asked to decorate these two spaces as well. The paintings were unveiled in 1917. Her last major commission was a series, "Great Women of the Bible," for the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, 1945-1949.

Date(s): 1913-1922

Extent: 2 boxes, 12 enclosures