J. W. Oakes was a Liverpool School artist who moved to London and had considerable success there as a landscape painter. His works are to be found in several British public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum.
Oakes exhibited at the Liverpool Academy from 1839, was elected Associate in 1847 (the year he began to exhibit in London) and acted as secretary between 1853 and 1855. By this time his landscapes were Pre-Raphaelite in style. In 1862 William Michael Rossetti included him with John William Inchbold, George Price Boyce, John Brett and William Davis in a list of Pre-Raphaelite landscape painters. In the late 1850s Oakes's Royal Academy exhibits received favourable reviews, including praise from Ruskin in Academy Notes. As a result Oakes moved to London in 1859, where he joined the private Pre-Raphaelite exhibiting society, the Hogarth Club. The Pre-Raphaelite style became unfashionable in the 1860s and Oakes's later works are closer in style to those of Benjamin Williams Leader or Vicat Cole. Oakes was elected associate of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours in 1874 although he only exhibited a handful of works there, and was made Associate of the Royal Academy in 1876 and honorary Royal Scottish Academician in 1883. His early works were painted in the Liverpool region, North Wales and Cheshire, but after 1860 he sought subjects further afield and painted throughout England, in Scotland, and made at least one visit to Switzerland. His obituary in the Magazine of Art, described him as "one of our most distinguished landscape painters". The fullest account of his art is in H. C. Marillier's book on the Liverpool School, published in 1904. — Hillary Morgan
A critical notice reprinted in William Michael Rossetti. Fine Art Chiefly Contemporary. London: Macmillan, 1867. p. 160.
"Chronicle of Art." Magazine of Art (August 1887): xliii.
Morgan, Hilary, and Peter Nahum. Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989. Catalogue number 36.
Last modified 27 December 2001