Artwork of the Month - September 2011
Artist: Octavius Oakley (1800-1867)
Status: Permanent collection
Item No.: GMAG 2008.250
About the Artist
Octavius Oakley was the father-in-law of the well known local watercolourist, Paul Jacob Naftel. It is not known whether Oakley ever had any formal art education but his natural skill for drawing, particularly portraiture was obvious at a very early age. This ability to capture likenesses with such charm soon made him a popular and successful portraitist, after he'd been encouraged to receive payment for his work by a young lawyer friend. Oakley exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1825 which resulted in many prestigious commissions, among them Prince George and Princess Augusta of Cambridge.
It was during the 1830's that Oakley developed a reputation for capturing more rustic figures such as street sellers and gypsies, so much so that he developed the nickname of 'Gypsy Oakley'. Sentimentalised paintings of street children and gypsies appealed to the Victorian taste, but were actually far removed from the reality of their impoverished lives.
It is likely that Oakley first met Naftel, seventeen years his junior, at the Old Watercolour Society, which possibly then resulted in Naftel inviting Oakley over to Guernsey for the first time in 1944.The picturesque scenes of young fisher boys and other rustic characters on the Island would have provided perfect subjects for Oakley. After Naftel married his daughter Isabel in 1853, Oakley regularly spent his holidays here until his death in 1867.