(1881 - 1953)
Thornton Oakley was active/lived in Pennsylvania. Thornton Oakley is known for genre-structure and industry theme painting, illustration.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Illustrator and muralist Thornton Oakley was born in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a
degree in architecture. Then he studied with Howard Pyle, founder
of the Brandywine School. While at the school, Oakley was
responsible for the school's supply store, sales, inventory, and
collecting students' monthly accounts.
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Oakley illustrated numerous books and magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, Collier's Weekly, and Everybody's Magazine.
Known for paintings of industrial America, his work is found in the
collections of numerous institutions including the Philadelphia Museum
of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Historical Society of
Pennsylvania, National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, Boston
Public Library, New York Public Library, and the British Museum.
Oakley's well-known works are six 12-foot murals which he painted for
the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. During World War II, the
National Geographic Society commissioned 48 paintings of war plants and
Thornton Oakley became one of the closest friends of portrait
Cecilia Beaux who was twenty-six years older than she. They met
in Gloucester in 1898, when he was seventeen years old and vacationing
there with his mother. In 1904, their friendship firmed
when he returned to Gloucester where Beaux was living, and he had
established himself as an illustrator, having studied with Beaux's good
friend, Howard Pyle. Oakley became Beaux's closest friend at
Gloucester, and taking long walks together, they shared similar
attitudes about the world of art. Although quite apart in age,
they each had a very high energy approach to the profession. Of
their times together in Gloucester, Oakley wrote in his diary:
"Evenings with Cecilia! They crowd my recollections . . . our
lingerings beside the fire . . .harbor sounds falling softly on the
ear, the cry of gulls, the eerie warning of the buoy on Reef of
Norman's Woe." (Carter, 157) Many years later, when Beaux was in
bad health, Oakley would take her on annual trips north from New York
City to revisit Gloucester, something they did until the year before
her death in 1942. Although the close relationship continued
until Beaux's death in 1942, there never was any suggestion it was more
In 1910, Oakley married Amy Ewing, and they had one child. Together they published numerous
travel books, which she wrote and he illustrated. In 1914, Oakley
was hired to head the Department of Illustration at the Philadelphia
Museum's School of Industrial Art, now the Philadelphia College of Art,
remaining until 1936.
Falk, Peter Hastings (ed.). Who Was Who in American Art . Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985
Pitz, Henry C. Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School, New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1975.
Woodmere Gallery. Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Thornton Oakley
Alice Carter, Cecilia Beaux: A Modern Painter in the Gilded Age
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