The Promise of Peace: Violet Oakley’s United Nations Portraits

March 30–June 30, 2013

Violet Oakley (1874-1961), a longtime advocate for peace, was sent in 1946 by the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin to capture historic openings sessions of the United Nations. Her portraits of delegates and representatives from across the globe are studied from life. These are among the most historically-significant works in Woodmere’s collection, and include Trygve Halvdan Lie, the first Secretary General of the UN, among other distinguished representatives from China, France, Haiti, India, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, and Poland.

The Oakley portraits showcase her lifelong dedication to the promotion of peace and world harmony. One of the great artists of Philadelphia, Oakley was an independent, forward-thinking, and self-described “pilgrim seeking peace” who began her career in 1895 and achieved great success in a male-dominated profession. This will be the first time many of these works have been exhibited in more than ten years, and they have never been shown in the context of interpreting their historical moment.

Along with the exhibition there will be over twenty special events capturing the essence of the time (mid 1940s): jazz and classical music events; Tuesday evening film viewings; lectures on the topics of peace, art and human rights, and Violet Oakley; and fun family events for all ages.

The exhibition is part of the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), which takes as its premise the importance of historical events through imagined visits in time to specific historical dates.