Theme/Style – Modernism, Surrealism, fantasy, portraiture, figurative, murals, illustration
Media – Oils, acrylics, watercolors, stone, bronze, papier-mâché, pastel, ink, pencil
Artistic Focus – A virtuoso draftsman who worked in many media, Oliver Grimley was also a venerated instructor, primarily at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he shared his skill with countless students in a teaching and exhibiting career that spanned nearly six decades. Grimley’s unique combination of imagination and technical invention allowed “the sensuous and the repulsive, and frightening and playful” to coexist in his work. Grimley said, “My ideas and sense of humor have their genesis in my belief that light ideas are often taken too seriously, and serious ideas are often taken too lightly. My compositions are criticisms of myself as part of mankind.”
Career Highlights –
- Oliver Fetterolf Grimley was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1920. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) from 1939 to 1942, and after serving in World War II he returned to the academy on the G.I. Bill. Grimley received the academy’s Cresson Scholarship, a Scheidt Scholarship, and a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. He also studied at Philadelphia’s Graphic Sketch Club.
- In 1949 Grimley had a solo show of his ink drawings and lithographs at the PAFA’s Philadelphia Artists’ Gallery. Through the 1950s he was also included in shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; as well as at Philadelphia’s Dubin Gallery, Contemporary Art Association, and Art Alliance.
- Grimley became an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1951, and was to remain there for nearly 60 years. He is remembered as a formidable teacher of life and cast drawing, disciplines integral to the school’s identity as a rigorous training ground for American artists. From the 1960s through the 1980s Grimley also taught at Philadelphia’s Hussian School of Art, the Norristown Art League, and the Barn Studio of Art in Millville, New Jersey; and in 1966 he was appointed as a lecturer in drawing at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
- During his long career at the PAFA, Grimley often participated in their faculty exhibitions and in the Philadelphia Water Color Club’s annuals through the 1980s. He was the recipient of the Water Color Club’s Joseph Pennell Award in 1966, 1968 and 1970. Grimley also exhibited at Philadelphia’s Woodmere Art Galleries (now the Woodmere Art Museum), receiving their Bruce S. Marks Prize for Drawing in 1971.
- Grimley also had solo shows at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 1965, Philadelphia’s Plastic Club in 1984, and Lancaster Graphics (Lancaster, PA) in 1992, and was also included in exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the city’s Pearl Fox Gallery, Grabar Gallery, Newman Galleries, Peggy Fingerote Goldstein Gallery, Eye of Newt Gallery, and Rosenfeld Gallery; and at the Costanza Gallery in Bryn Mawr, PA.
- During the 1960s and 1970s Grimley also executed commissions for murals at the Commonwealth Federal Savings and Loan in Norristown and the Continental Bank and Trust and the American Bank in Lafayette Hills, PA; as well as a papier-mâché eagle commissioned by Leonard Tose (owner of the Philadelphia Eagles) for Veterans Stadium. In 1988 Grimley was chosen to design a new iron entrance arch for the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown.
- Grimley was an active member of both the Norristown and Conshohocken art leagues, and his work is in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Woodmere Art Museum, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
- Grimley authored and illustrated a children’s book, Humble Frog & His 127 Music Loving Friends, as well as a booklet called Valley Forge (1954) that earned him a Freedoms Foundation award. His illustrations appear in the books Pat’s Harmony by Page Cooper and Blue Hills and Shoofly Pie by Ann Hark, both published in 1952.
- Grimley was given the PAFA dean’s award for distinguished service in 2011, and that same year the PAFA presented a solo exhibition of his ink drawings and sculptures entitled “Oliver Grimley: Menagerie.” Oliver Grimley passed away in 2013. His work was exhibited in a one-person show at the Holtzman Gallery in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2016.