A visit to Pennsylvania’s Capitol in Harrisburg is not complete without seeing the famous mural series created by Philadelphia artist Violet Oakley (1874-1961). The commission to paint these thirteen murals for the Governor’s Reception Room, which was awarded to Oakley in 1902 and completed in 1906, signaled not only her status as a major Pennsylvania artist but also was a milestone in the history of American art. It was the largest public commission awarded to a woman in the United States to that date. With this series, titled The Holy Experiment, Oakley garnered a gold medal in 1905 from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and significant national recognition throughout her career.
This exhibition, made available through the auspices of the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee, Harrisburg, was comprised of the original studies for all thirteen murals. Eleven studies were recently acquired from the Initiatives of Change. Two are drawn from the holdings of the Pennsylvania State Senate Chamber. The exhibition is augmented by a bust and photographs of the artist, a prized pair of her earrings, and a publication on her life and work.