Skip to main content

Main Building

Portrait of Violet Oakley

Edith Emerson (American, 1888–1981)
Edith Emerson became Violet Oakley’s studio assistant in 1916, sparking the beginning of their forty-five-year artistic and romantic partnership. First meeting Oakley while a student in her mural painting class at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Emerson described her instructor as "the most stimulating . . . [and] electrifying teacher." This painting—sometimes described as Oakley’s "official" portrait—captures Emerson’s respect and reverence for her companion, who was considered the greatest woman muralist of her time. Although this is a portrait of her lover, Emerson does not sexualize or objectify Oakley’s form. Instead, she depicts a strong and cerebral woman with a confident posture and preoccupied stare.

Object Details

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.

Main Building