Violet Oakley papers, 1841-1981

Oakley, Violet, b. 1874 d. 1961
Painter, Muralist, Stained glass artist
Active in Philadelphia, Pa.

Collection size: 56.8 linear ft. (partially microfilmed on 36 reels)

Collection Summary: Correspondence; scrapbooks, photograph albums, personal documents, art works, financial material, writings, printed material, and photographic materials.

REELS 3716-3745: Correspondence between Oakley family members, friends, business associates, and after Miss Oakley's death, those people interested in the functions sponsored by the Violet Oakley Memorial Foundation through Edith Emerson. Some letters contain enclosures such as photographs, writings, and contracts.

REELS 1187-1188: Five scrapbooks, 1926-1962, containing letters, clippings, exhibition announcements, catalogs, and awards. One of the scrapbooks is devoted to "The Holy Experiment", a limited edition publication by Oakley which commemorates William Penn's government of Pennsylvania and which includes reproductions of Oakley's murals in the State Capitol in Harrisburg.

REEL 1204: Two scrapbooks, ca. 1896-1952, containing clippings from magazines of illustrations by Violet Oakley and her sister, Hester Oakley and of her murals for the State Capitol at Harrisburg.

REELS 1194-1195: Photograph albums, undated and 1870-1960, containing photographs of the Oakley and Swain families, of Violet Oakley, Edith Emerson, Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, friends, her home, Oakley's "Red Rose" studio in Villanova, Pennsylvania, of her "Cogslea" studio in Philadelphia, and of her works of art, mainly portraits of her friends and of delegates to the League of Nations.

REEL 1272: Two albums, ca. 1900-1949, containing photos of works of art by Oakley, including stained glass windows at the Church of All Angels, New York; murals at the State Capitol, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; preliminary drawings for and the site of the Dante Window; the lunettes and window for the Yarnall House; the murals and preliminary drawings for the Cuyahoga Court House; the mural for the Vassar Alumnae House and of the dedication ceremonies; photos of and printed material on "Divine Presence--Christ at Geneva," "The Life of Moses," "Great Women of the Bible," and the triptychs for the Army and Navy. Also included are photos of Oakley working on murals in her studio.

REEL P12: A scrapbook, 1898-1936, containing 1 photograph of Oakely at her easel, clippings and letters, 1921-1936.

UNMICROFILMED: Personal and family documents, 1841-1960, including passports, award certificates, and memorabilia; art work, 1883-1953, including childhood drawings; financial material; journals; manuscripts; a card file annotating works of art; clippings; exhibition announcements and catalogs for Oakley and Emerson; pamphlets; brochures; books and galley proofs; programs; organizational administrative records; reproductions of art works; photographs of Oakley, views of Cogslea, 322 glass negatives and 1600 film negatives (mostly unprinted), of Oakley, her family and friends, and of her studio and works of art. Among the photographers are Elizabeth Buehrmann, Helen Dodd, J. M. Elliot, Haeseler, Philadelphia, Clayton Stone Harris, T. S. Jamison, Florence Maynard, Olive M. Potts, Eva Watson Schutze, and Mathilde Weil.

Biographical/Historical Note: Muralist, painter, stained glass designer, Philadelphia, Pa. Born Bergen Heights, N.J. Both grandfathers were painters and members of the National Academy. She studied at the Art Students' League, the Academie Montparnasse, Paris, in England with Charles Lazar, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and at Drexel Institute with Howard Pyle. She worked as an illustrator and stained glass designer in her early career. Her study of the life of William Penn in connection with her mural decoration of the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., inspired her to work for international peace and a series of portraits of the delegates to the League of Nations.
Her early studio "Cogslea" was shared by illustrators Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith. Her later studio "Lower Cogslea" was shared by artist Edith Emerson, who after Oakley's death in 1961 established a memorial foundation in her name. Oakley was the first woman elected to the National Society of Mural Painters, was a recipient of the Gold Medal of Honor of the PAFA, and was the first woman to receive the Gold Medal of Honor from the Architectural League of New York. Her writings include The Holy Experiment- A Message to the World From Pennsylvania (1922), Law Triumphant-The Opening of the Book of Law, and the Miracles of Geneva (1933).

Material on reel P12 lent, 1954, for microfilming by Violet Oakely. Material on reels 1187-88, 1194-95, 1204 and 1272 lent for microfilming, 1977. Photo albums on reel 1194, frames 548-708, and reel 1272, fr. 258-371, were subsequently donated with 53 ft. of material in 1984 by Oakley's longtime friend and companion, Edith Emerson. An additional 2 feet were donated in 1988 by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, who had received the papers from Emerson's estate.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reels P12, 1187-1188, 1194, 1204, 1272, and 3716-3745 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.
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