A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance

A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance


The most ambitious exhibition of the work of Violet Oakley (1874–1961) to date, A Grand Vision highlights Oakley’s spirit of civic humanism and her prolific accomplishments as a muralist, portraitist, stained glass designer, and illustrator. At a time before women had the right to vote, she achieved international fame for her prestigious government commissions for the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

The exhibition documents Oakley’s extensive contributions to Philadelphia institutions and to the American Renaissance revival, following her career through the twentieth century. She fashioned herself as an artist, diplomat, promoting world peace as she created portraits of the delegates to the League of Nations and United Nations.

Guest curator Dr. Patricia Likos Ricci is an associate professor of the history of art and the director of the Fine Arts Division at Elizabethtown College. In the late 1970s, she worked with Edith Emerson, the artist’s life partner and director of Woodmere from the early 1940s through 1978. Emerson founded the Violet Oakley Memorial Foundation at Cogslea. Dr. Ricci helped her organize the artist’s remaining works and reconstruct the trajectory of her career. Dr. Ricci also worked with curators Anne d’Harnoncourt and Anne Percy in 1979, writing the essay and participating in the organization of the first major exhibition of Oakley’s work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Woodmere extends sincere appreciation to the William Penn Foundation for support of the exhibition, its programming, and catalogue. The Wyeth Foundation for American Art as well as Harriet and Larry Weiss provided additional support for the catalogue. Other generous donors include Sally Bellet; Bowman Properties, Ltd.; Debbie Brodsky; Glenmede; and Susan and Burn Oberwager.

Lecture by Guest Curator Patricia Likos Ricci, PhD
Saturday, October 7, 3:00 p.m.
$15 ($10 members)
Sponsored by Susan and Burn Oberwager

Dr. Patricia Likos Ricci, guest curator of A Grand Vision, will speak about Violet Oakley’s development as an artist and her belief in the power of imagination to reshape society. 

Community open house reception 
Saturday, October 7, 4:00–6:00 p.m.
Sponsored by Bowman Properties, Ltd.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Dr. Ricci. A series of lectures, music concerts, performances and excursions in conjunction with the exhibition are listed on our website under Programs.

Upcoming Events

10.07 | Lecture: The Spirit of Violet Oakley: Spiritual, Political, and Aesthetic | 3pm
10.23 | Lecture: A Literary Lens into the Times of Violet Oakley |
10.27 | Violet Oakley Murals Excursion: Pennsylvania State Capitol |8:30am-6pm
10.28 | Lecture: Philadelphia's Last Victorians: Shifting Tides in Architectural Taste, 1885-1910 |
11.01 | Violet Oakley Murals Excursion: Presbyterian Church in Germantown |
11.13 | Lecture: The Pioneering Women of the Bauhaus |
01.20.18 | Lecture: Violet Oakley's Art and Crafts Impulse |

Upcoming Events

Violet Oakley Murals Excursion: Presbyterian Church in Germantown

2:00 pm
Join Woodmere Assistant Curator Rachel McCay on a tour of Violet Oakley’s Great Women of the Bible murals in the Pastoral Aid Room of the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown.
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