Thornton Oakley in his studio at Villanova, Pennsylvania, 1943. Thornton Oakley Papers, Helen Farr Sloan Library, Delaware Art Museum
Thornton Oakley
Date: American painter and illustrator, 1881–1953
Biography: A native of Pittsburgh, Thornton Oakley (1881-1953) received undergraduate (1901) and architecture (1902) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania before he spent three years studying with Howard Pyle beginning in 1902. In 1914–19 and 1921–36, Oakley headed the Department of Illustration at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. Over the years, he also taught drawing at the University of Pennsylvania and lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Curtis Institute. Recognized nationwide, he was a juror for the Department of Fine Arts at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition in 1926.

Oakley illustrated for many periodicals. His commercial clients included the PA Railroad, the Philadelphia Electric Company, and Sun Oil. In World War I, he was commissioned by the Shipping Board (in conjunction with the US government) for lithographs of his drawings of war work at the Hog Island Shipyard in Pennsylvania. During World War II, he completed 48 paintings for the National Geographic reflecting the war effort. Throughout his career, Oakley referred to Pyle's instruction as his formative experience. In 1919, he wrote the article Illustration for the American Magazine of Art, giving his view of illustration art as an expression of humanity's highest ideals.

In 1910, Oakley married Amy Ewing. They had one child. She wrote and he illustrated several travel books.

In 1951, Oakleydoanted his large collection Howard Pyle drawings, sketches, books, and letters to the Free Library of Philadelphia. He died in Bryn Mawr, PA.

Source: Delaware Art Museum archives