Restored Violet Oakley Murals in the PA Capitol

The murals in the Pa State Capitol Building, by Violet Oakley, Edwin Austen Abbey, and William Brantley Van Ingen, have been recently restored as part of the overall restoration of the State Capitol Building. press release

I saw these for the first time last spring, on a tour led by Ruthann Hubbert-Kemper of the PA Capitol Preservation Committee. These photos can give some idea of the beauty of the murals.
Ms. Hubbert-Kemper was instrumental in pushing for and guiding the proper restoration of these murals. Many of the murals had been in a state of neglect, and undergone water damage from leaks in the roof.

Some links to other sites with references to Violet, and her work.

Short bio of Oakley, and picture of senate mural

mentioned in Paul Giambarba's excellent blog on illustration

Oakley Murals in Supreme Court

Sacred Challenge: Violet Oakley and the Pennsylvania Capitol Murals. Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Cmte. 2002. 168p. illus. OCLC # 52372441. ISBN 0-9643048-6-4. pap. $59.95.

"Sacred Challenge chronicles the life and art of Violet Oakley, who, at a time when Pennsylvania women could neither vote nor hold public office, received the largest commission ever given to a female artist: the honor of painting 43 murals in the State Capitol Building. Beautiful color illustrations and photographs bring these works of art to life."


Montecatini , painting completed

Many thanks to my friend Eileen, who brought her Nikon D70, and wide angle lens and shot this photo in studio. Finally the color of the photo is as close to the painting as possible. The lighting was two ECT photofloods, and some post editing of levels in Photoshop.


Montecatini Mural ; painting in progress continued

Mural size is 12 ft width, 8 ft in height. A small rolling scaffold helps to reach the upper sections and hold bottles of paint and water.
Have been using a laptop in all kinds of precarious spots, because so useful to be able to enlarge sections of the sketch and of source photos, like the column base.

The column base detail is from a Renaissance palazzo at the
Metropolitan Museum


Montecatini mural ; painting in progress

Preparation includes many coats of primer, sanded each time, a grid lightly marked onto the wall, and the drawing transferred. For complicated sections, a "pounce" pattern is created,he lines are pricked with a needle, the pierced paper taped in place , and tapped with a bag filled with powdered charcoal.the charcoal dots provide a guide for light pencil or painted outlines.
The sky is painted first, then the undercoating for the foreground.

see also mural sources and sketches


Montecatini mural, sources and sketches

I had wanted to take time to bike around Philly, and take pics of columns, capitals, any interesting architectural details, there is so much visual richness here. Took advantage of some great weather, found some ionic capitals, and inlaid marble.

Also looked on the web for photos of peacocks, as it was requested one to be painted in, as a symbol of Pakistan.
Usually peacock imagery in these murals is more related to their having been collected as exotic living ornaments by wealthy Europeans, so I was pleased to be able to have this link to their native origin.

Decided on an angled perspective, because of the context of the site.. the main point of visual impact they want is when seen from the entrance to the sitting room, not directly across from it.

They also requested columns, and *broken* ones, and for the entire work to have a real *wow* factor.

I looked at many images of classical statues, and wanted to stay away form the obvious
ones, finally found the boy with dophin in an auction catalogue. These sketches begin with traditional pen and ink and paper, and are then scanned and manipulated

see also
mural sources and sketches
mural painting in progress 1
mural painting in progress 2
mural completed
mural installation

First Stage of Montecatini Mural

This photo was taken at the initial consultation with clients at their town home in Society Hill, Philadelphia.

They visited my booth at the PFFS show in the spring, and admired my five panel folding screen, a classical scene of combining elements of the statue of the three graces ( version in the Louvre) and ancient columns in an idyllic setting.

After extensive interior renovation of their colonial
era home, they are interested in a mural to visually expand the narrow passage between their sitting room and back garden.

They want the balusters, urns and classical statue in their garden to be echoed in the mural. I am given a disc with dozens of photos of their trip to Tuscany, some of which we agree will be excellent references for the mural.

I have brought my laptop to the meeting to show them some photos of Renaissance Italian frescos.

detail of the Clemency of Scipio, by Antonia Fasolo and Gianbattista Zelotti

My task is to consider how to combine these concepts into a scene that includes the elements they request and that will work in the context of the space, so that it will be the focal point of interest when entering the sitting room.

see also mural sources and sketches
mural painting in progress 1
mural painting in progress 2
mural completed
mural installation