Highlights from the Oklahoma Art League

Honoring the Oklahoma Art League’s 100th anniversary, Highlights from the Oklahoma Art League featured a selection of approximately 20 works donated by OAL. Included in the exhibition were paintings by Nellie Shepherd, Oscar Brousse Jacobson, Nan Sheets, and Doel Reed; prints by Jean-François Millet, Francisco de Goya, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Alphonse Legros, Joseph  Pennell, and others; and a drawing by Richard Vernon Goetz.

The Oklahoma Art League was formed in 1910 and for more than two decades collected paintings and sponsored art exhibitions. In January of 1936, President Roosevelt’s Works Project Administration helped to launch the OAL’s first gallery, the WPA Experimental Gallery. Nan Sheets, a well-known local artist and OAL member, was named Technical Advisor of the WPA Gallery and began a fund drive to procure more space for the Gallery’s growing collections and programs. Two years later, in January of 1938, the OAL moved the WPA Gallery into five galleries on the fifth floor of the Municipal Auditorium, and Sheets was named Director of the new Municipal Auditorium Federal Arts Center. Sheets maintained the original WPA Gallery’s schedule of changing exhibitions and art classes and opened three extension galleries in local public libraries. Over the next few years, the Arts Center flourished while federal funding for the arts disappeared during WWII. In response, Sheets and Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick, another OAL member, organized the first Beaux Arts Ball to raise funds for the Art Center, and on May 18, 1945, the Oklahoma Art Center was incorporated into perpetual existence.

The Oklahoma Art League has made numerous financial donations and has provided a number of gifts of art to the Museum over the years. The Oklahoma Art League Collection at OKCMOA includes over 90 works. The highlight of the OAL collection, Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington (after 1779), is on view in the Museum’s second floor permanent collection portrait gallery.

In honor of the centennial, the Oklahoma Art League donated Nellie Shepherd’s  Brittany Woman (ca. 1907–11), which was featured alongside its companion piece Brittany Fisherman (n.d.). Shepherd was a founding member of the OAL. She studied in Paris, where she was influenced by French impressionism. In 1910, her painting Lottiereceived an honorable mention at the Le Grand Salon in Paris. Shepherd later served as head of the art department at the Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha.

Highlights from the Oklahoma Art League was exhibited on the Museum’s second floor beginning November 9, 2010.

Oklahoman article published November 7, 2010