Oliver Grimley: Menagerie

January 29 - April 17, 2011
A public reception and tribute to Oliver Grimley will be held on Friday April 8th at 4:30 p.m. in the exhibition space

School of Fine Arts Gallery: Gift of the Women’s Board, Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building

The sensuous and the repulsive, and frightening and playful coexist in Oliver Grimley’s work. Noble heads seem solidly composed of flesh and bone, but slowly transmogrify into elephants, lizards, frolicking nudes, and fantastic architecture. Using the visual power of allegory and a seductive style that lures the eye, Grimley’s drawings magically conjure images and narratives that resound with mythology, folklore, and childhood memories. The dark aspects of his work similarly tap into a narrative unconscious in which morality tales, legends of hope and the unexpected co-mingle.  This focus exhibition brings together pen and ink drawings made from 1951 to 1997 plus two sculptures and sketchbooks. Employing an unusual virtuoso technique in which forms are composed of tiny flecks and dots, Grimley’s work has few parallels among his peers. Grimley (born 1920), a longtime PAFA faculty member retired in 2010 after a teaching career that spanned nearly six decades. Grimley was educated at PAFA and at the University of Pennsylvania from which he earned BFA and MFA degrees. At PAFA he is best known as a formidable teacher of life and cast drawing, disciplines that have been integral to the school’s identity as a rigorous training ground for American artists. This exhibition celebrates Grimley’s imagination and great technical invention, revealing the unusual viewpoint with which he has approached the practice of drawing in his work.

Robert Cozzolino, Curator of Modern Art

Special thanks to the following individuals for the support they provided for this exhibition: Brian Boutwell, Jeff Carr, Wayne and Betsy Grimley Chamberlain, Gail Ferretti, David Manders, Donna Pio, Gale Rawson, Jill Rupinski, and Pat Witt. Most of all, thanks to Oliver Grimley for the inspiration he has provided for many generations of PAFA students.

Tributes to Oliver Grimley
Oliver respected the students' struggle with all seriousness -- teaching us not only to draw, but to see critically and with a level of precision no matter how long it took. While giving us a structured path, he also encouraged each of us to work from our imagination.

Oliver raised the bar for both the beginner as well as the most advanced student. This devoted teacher spoke simply and clearly, extolling the virtues of always considering the whole design, measuring and relating parts to each other and the whole. Oliver's own vividly imaginative and masterful works, both playful and serious, follow the same principles he taught us.

His is a critical eye with a twinkle in it.

Gail Ferretti

I just graduated from the Academy earning a certificate with a painting major and drawing minor. I would like to offer a few comments about studying with Oliver. Oliver has a reputation for being a demanding, fair instructor. I was thrilled to get into his class because I wanted to learn from his wizardly draughtsmanship and artistry. He wanted you to acquire skilled techniques and would not let you advance in a drawing until you got the very beginning perfectly. Some of the students never completed a drawing the entire semester. Hard work and progress were valued. It was one of the finest learning experiences I had at the Academy and I will always be grateful to Oliver for not letting me slide.

Alice Ray Cathrall

'To see what is really there, not what you think is there' was part of the class description of Oliver Grimley's Discipline of Drawing class.  Little did I know just how closely one needed to look in order to see what I was drawing.  After about 4 years of taking and re-taking his class I think I finally began to see, even if just a bit.  'Discipline' was the key word in the class description; it was also one of the biggest lessons I learned from Oliver.  Seeing is not a quick process; it takes time.  Drawing what one sees takes even more time.  Among the many lessons he taught was the lesson of patience.  I considered myself lucky if I was able to draw both the head and a part of the body in a 3-week pose.  Those students who had been studying with him even longer usually were able to draw the entire pose, but I was a relative 'newbie' to this 'discipline of drawing' process.  Regardless of whatever skill level a student possessed at the time, Oliver always encouraged one to consider the placement of the figure on the page.  Design was crucial and an element to be carefully considered.  His thoughtful, intentional approach to drawing inspired all of his students.  The lessons taught in the studio spilled over into life.  I consider myself truly fortunate as a student and as a person to have had the opportunity to study with Oliver. 

KJ Malony

My memory of Oliver is of having him as an instructor in first year cast drawing.  I remember being 18 years old and feeling like I had nothing but boundless potential as an artist.

Oliver was one of a small handful of instructors who would wear a dark green lab coat when he taught.  I always liked this as it gave the instructors an air of authority and formality.  Oliver always spoke very gently and patiently.  I remember that he was extremely careful in looking over my drawing and checking it for accuracy in every way.

After he would finish pointing out all of the errors in my drawing he would move on to the next student.  Finding so many errors in my drawing was a bitter pill for my young ego to swallow.  When I returned to my
drawing I was determined to make it so accurate that the next time Mr. Grimley came around to me he would have to pronounce my drawing error free!  Of course he would return to me an hour later and patiently proceed to show me another half dozen places where I was still not accurate to the cast I was drawing.  This would double my resolve to look so carefully that the NEXT TIME Mr. Grimley came to look at my drawing he would not be able to find any flaws!  Then  it dawned on me; that is exactly what he wants too.  If I were to make a drawing free of mistakes in proportion and wholly accurate he and I would have both done our jobs. Unfortunately for him and me I never did quite produce such a drawing.  However, I did come to develop a tremendous respect for Oliver and for his dedication to what we both loved - the art of painting.

Paul DuSold

This is such a nice thing to do for a great painter and educator.  I studied with Oliver as a mature student around 1998-2000 for cast drawing. He was a demanding teacher in that he forced us, me, to slow down and really, really look. I thought for a while that I would never get past those dots on the paper, but when I did, I had a good drawing. And the skills I learned from him stayed with me. When drawing,I sometimes still hear him in my ear saying....s l o w down Deborah...Look.

Oliver, Happy 90th Birthday. Happy retirement to you. All my best wishes,
Deb K Simon


Oliver Grimley's class was like a draught of medicine: it was beneficial but that didn't mean I liked taking it. ;-) Don't get me wrong, I very much appreciated Mr. Grimley personally. He was unfailingly polite and calm, a point of stillness in the rush of emotion and frenzied action that made up much of art school. But to be honest, sitting and painstakingly doing carefully correct cast drawings with a fine mechanical pencil was not a great match for my interests or temperament. Nonetheless, I fully appreciated what he was teaching, admired the beautiful results and the self-control necessary to produce such results, even if I were never going to be a success story of careful shading myself. I could see the value of what he was conveying, and appreciated his persistence in trying to drum it into my reluctant head, despite my obvious lack of talent in that direction.Taking Mr. Grimley's class gave me valuable lessons in patience, perseverance and attention to detail. I was thrilled when in senior year I won a line drawing prize that had been instituted by Mr. Grimley, feeling that this was indeed an accolade worth winning. 

Warm regards and admiration,
Nancy Bea Miller (PAFA, 4 yr cert. '91)


When I was at The Academy in the late sixtys, I remember seeing Oliver's incredibly intricate pen and ink drawings and thinking that as an instructor, Mr. Grimley had really set the bar high.  But, in his critiques he was always positive and encouraging, exactly what a first year student needed.

Lois Schlachter

I studied with Oliver in 1980-81 at PAFA when I was 18 . I spent a lot of time working on my drawing skills by working from the cast collection and studying in Oliver's class. Being able to draw well was important to Oliver, which is why I enjoyed studying with him. Something I still remember him talking about at the time was how there was decision making in drawing and painting. What the artist draws or paints (even in realism) is not reality, but a representation of reality...an artist's interpretation of it. Other artists have said that through out history, but it was from Oliver that I first heard it.

David Shevlino


I don't know that my words would be very profound, but before I took Oliver's class I found drawing with a pencil, that is, tedious.  I always preferred drawing with my paint brush and I only did that as a necessary end to a means, yearning to jump into color, but Oliver awakened in me the beauty of line and the joy of "seeing" more accurately.  He helped me push through that wall of "I can't" to "Oh, yes, I can"!  He will always remain dear to my heart.  It was an honor to have taken a class under his tutelage.

Good luck with the show!   I can't wait to see it!
Maggie Leiby


He is/was a marvel as an instructor, particularly with his ability of "leading" the student to the realization of where his or her errors were, rather than making a blatant announcement of the obvious mistakes.  In the six (or seven) courses I had with him at PAFA, I never heard him be anything but polite to anyone ... without embarrassing or flattering.  A wonderful gentleman.

Alex Holt


Oliver was easily one of my most influential teachers and certainly the most demanding.  The year I spent in his class has lasted 40.  I cannot draw without setting high standards for it.  Not much of my work survives this rigor, but I owe Ollie gratitude for that which does.

Richard S Ranck


Viewing Oliver's art is like attending a Dionysian festival in Middle Earth.

Amy Raudenbush, former student