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Speaker Charting the Holy Experiment: Violet Oakley’s Murals

March 8 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

"Picturing a More Perfect Union" exhibit gallery entrance

Join Professor Patricia Likos Ricci who will discuss Violet Oakley’s first commission for the Pennsylvania State Capitol, a series of murals in the Governor’s Reception Room, painted from 1902-1906. Oakley’s theme, “The Founding of the State of Liberty Spiritual,” focused on William Penn’s decision to use the land granted to him by King Charles II in the Charter of 1681 to create a society with religious freedom in the New World. Oakley studied the history of the Quakers and the life of William Penn in London and Oxford to prepare her mural series which chronicles the struggle for religious freedom in England from the sixteenth century to Penn’s voyage to Pennsylvania in 1682.

An advisor to The State Museum’s current exhibit Picturing a More Perfect Union, Dr. Ricci is Professor of the History of Art and the Director of the Fine Arts Department at Elizabethtown College. Her research focuses on the nineteenth-century Renaissance Revival, American Renaissance muralists, and women artists. She is the authority on the American artist Violet Oakley (1874-1961) and was the guest curator and catalog author of the major retrospective exhibition “A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance,” at Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, (September 2017 – January 2018). Other research interests include the interaction of artists and natural philosophers in the development of the New Science in the Early Modern era and scientific illustration.

This program is part of the Charter Day activities and is included with free admission.

This program is produced in conjunction with the exhibit Picturing a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Mural Studies for the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber, 1911-1919. The exhibit features more than 50 of Violet Oakley’s original sketches for the Pennsylvania State Capitol Senate Chamber murals from the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania. The exhibit will be on display at The State Museum through April 26, 2020.

About the exhibit: The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. In recognition of this milestone, The State Museum of Pennsylvania is pleased to present more than 50 of Violet Oakley’s original sketches from its collections on the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber murals.

The first woman to ever receive a government art commission, Oakley embodied the ideal of the “New Woman” embraced by women of that era who fearlessly pushed past the limits that society imposed on them because of their gender. Created during a decade of conflict and landmark social change Oakley’s Senate Chamber murals are a singular achievement in both American Renaissance mural painting and of the era’s “New Woman.”


March 8
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


State Museum of Pennsylvania
300 North St.
Harrisburg, PA 17120 United States
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(717) 787-4980

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