Oakley, Octavius (DNB00)

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OAKLEY, OCTAVIUS (1800–1867), water-colour painter, born in Bermondsey, London, on 27 April 1800, was the son of a London wool merchant. He was educated at the school of Dr. Nicholas at Ealing and was intended for the medical profession. This design was frustrated by the embarrassed state of his father's affairs, and he was placed with a cloth manufacturer near Leeds. There he drew portraits of his acquaintances in pencil, and by degrees his practice increased so much that he left business and embarked on a professional career. About 1825 he settled in Derby, where he painted portraits in water-colours, and was patronised by the Duke of Devonshire and other noblemen of the neighbourhood. He removed to Leamington in 1836, and about 1841 he came to London. In 1842 he was elected an associate, and in 1844 a member, of the Society of Painters in Water-colours, where he exhibited in all 210 drawings of rustic figures, landscapes, and groups of gipsies, which earned for him the sobriquet of ‘Gipsy Oakley.’ Meanwhile he continued to send occasional portraits in water-colours to the Royal Academy, where he exhibited from 1826 until 1860.

Oakley died at 7 Chepstow Villas, Bayswater, London, on 1 March 1867, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. His remaining works were sold at Christie's in March 1869. Drawings by him of ‘Primrose Gatherers’ and ‘Buy my Spring Flowers’ are in the South Kensington Museum. His youngest daughter Isabel married Paul Jacob Naftel [q. v.], the water-colour painter.

[Art Journal, 1867, p. 115; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves and Armstrong, 1886–89, ii. 220; Roget's History of the Old Water-Colour Society, 1891, ii. 268–271; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1826–60; Exhibition Catalogues of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours, 1842–67.]

R. E. G.