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Violet Oakley papers, 1841-1981

Violet Oakley papers, 1841-1981

Oakley, Violet, 1874-1961

Muralist, Painter, Stained glass artist

Collection Information

Size: 57.4 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Painter, muralist, and stained glass designer Violet Oakley (1874-1961) lived and worked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was known for her Renaissance-revival style of art and the series of murals she completed for the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Provenance

The papers were donated in 1977 and 1984 by Oakley's longtime friend and companion, Edith Emerson. In 1988, two additional feel of materials were donated by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, who had received the papers from Emerson's estate.

Related Materials

Originals of material loaned for microfilming, which consist of Violet Oakley's scrapbooks containing press clippings, correspondence, programs, invitations, reproductions of artwork, and ephemera dating from 1896 to 1962, as well as a family photograph album and photographs of artwork, were returned to Edith Emerson. Loaned material is still available on reels 1204, P12, 1187-1188, 1272, and 1194-1195 but is not included in the container listing of this finding aid.

Reel 1204 consists of two scrapbooks (circa 1896-1952) containing clippings from magazines of illustrations by Violet Oakley and her sister, Hester, and of Violet's murals for the State Capitol at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Reel P12 is of a scrapbook (1898-1936) containing a photograph of Oakely at her easel, clippings, and letters. Reels 1187-1188 consist of five scrapbooks (1920-1962) 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 commemorating William Penn, and which includes reproductions of Oakley's capitol murals in Harrisburg.

Reel 1272 consists of two albums (circa 1900-1949) containing photos of Oakley working on murals in her studio, as well as her works of art, including stained glass windows at the Church of All Angels, New York; murals at the Harrisburg State Capitol; preliminary drawings and site photographs of "Dante's Window"; the lunettes and window for the Yarnall House; murals and preliminary drawings for the Cuyahoga Court House; the mural and dedication ceremonies for the Vassar Alumnae House; and photos and printed mate

Funding

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Scrapbooks and portions of photo albums: Originals returned to Edith Emerson after microfilming.
  • Reel P12: Originals returned to the lender, Violet Oakely, after microfilming, 1959.

Scope and Contents

The papers of painter, stained glass artist, and muralist Violet Oakley measure 57.4 linear feet and date from 1841-1981. Found within the papers are biographical materials; personal and business correspondence; writings, including essays, lectures, and project drafts; diaries and journals; financial material; artwork; printed material, including scrapbooks; and photographs, 3 albums, 322 glass plate negatives, and 1600 film negatives of Oakley, her family and friends, and her work.

Biographical materials include certificates, family records, curriculum vitae, and identification cards, and studio guest books. About one-half of the collection is comprised of correspondence with family, friends, and business associates. Writings include Oakley's notes, essays and lectures, and writings related to 16 of her major artworks and publications, including her work on the Pennsylvania Capitol murals in Harrisburg. Diaries and journals include Oakley's travel notes and research on planned artworks.

Financial materials include a catalog of artworks and price lists, accounting records, and art supply receipts. Artwork includes early childhood juvenilia, a sketchbook, sketches of travel and friends, architectural renderings, and artwork by others. Printed materials include books, clippings, exhibition catalogs, programs, and reproductions of artwork by Oakley and others. Photographic materials include photographs, albums, and negatives depicting Oakley, her friends and family, her studio at Cogslea, and reproductions of artwork.

The bulk of the correspondence in this collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reels 3716-3745 at the Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the papers as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm due to reprocessing.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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