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"Youth and the Arts" lunette, from the mural series "The Building of the House of Wisdom," Charlton Yarnall House

Date
1910–11
Medium
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Gift of the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross, 1963
Dimensions
84 x 165 in.

Description & Inscriptions

Impressed by a series of murals Oakley had completed in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, banker Charlton Yarnall commissioned Oakley to create a series of murals for the entrance hall and music room of his new neo-renaissance mansion at 17th and Locusts Streets in Philadelphia. The murals, collectively titled Building the House of Wisdom (1911), are considered to be among Oakley’s greatest achievements. Youth and the Arts is the second in a series of three large lunettes. Here the child, symbolizing Culture, has reached early adulthood.

Youth and the Arts is set on a balcony, the sky appearing through a classical archway. The young adults are the approximate ages of Charlton Yarnall’s older children, Alexander and Margaret. At left, seated near a cello and a harp, a young man plays the flute while a young woman in blue peruses a book of prints. At right, a dark-haired woman with her back to the viewer listens to the music while a standing blonde woman sings. Behind them at the piano is an intense man whose irregular hairline and features suggest Leopold Stokowski, a rising star in the classical music world who would become the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in October 1912. Oakley drew Stokowski many times from her seat in the orchestra and he would be the first recipient of the Philadelphia Award, which she would design in 1921.

Youth and the Arts embodies the Renaissance flowering of humankind’s artistic potential. It is inscribed with a verse from Psalm 144:12: “I will sing a new song to thee upon an instrument of ten strings . . . that our sons may be as plants grown up in their Youth. And our Daughters as cornerstones polished.”

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