Category Archives: Thomas Eakens

Thought of the Day 7.25.12

“The big artist keeps an eye on nature and steals her tools.” –Thomas Eakins

Thomas Eakins Self Portrait 1894. national Academy of Design, New York.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins was born on this day in Philadelphia, PA in 1844.

Today is the 168th anniversary of his birth. He went to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts  and attended classes on anatomy at Jefferson Medical College. He spent a few years abroad studying in Paris and Spain then returned home to Philadelphia. He worked in watercolor, oil and photography to capture realistic landscapes and the human figure. He taught at the Pennsylvania Academy stressing the importance of realism. He  ran into trouble with Victorian sensibilities with his emphasis on using nude subjects and was forced to retire from that institution.

John Biglin in a Single Scull, ca 1873 by Thomas Eakins a Watercolor on paper

Early paintings reflected things he liked to do like rowing on the Schuykill river. He also painted portraits of women and children (usually of family or friends) at home in intimate, shadowed settings.

The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton, 1900 by Thomas Eakins, Oil on Canvas.
Kenton was Eakin’s brother-in-law. The painting is 82 x 42″ and is in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During his lifetime his was not well received in the art world. His portraits — he painted several hundred of them — were rarely done on commission and  were often painted to scale, inside  and in isolation. He was also very interested in science and medicine (especially anatomy) as is reflected in two of his most famous works The Gross Clinic and The Agnew Clinic. 

The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins, 1875. Oil on Canvas 96 x 78″. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Eakins' "The Agnew Clinic," a...

Thomas Eakins’ “The Agnew Clinic,” a companion piece to “The Gross Clinic.” (Photo credit: zpeckler)


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