Thomas Eakins – American 1844-1916

Self Portrait, 1902
Thomas Eakins was born in Philadelphia on July 25, 1844. He passed the major part of his life there with the exception of a period of training in Europe, 1866-70. He studied in Paris with Gérôme, but learnt most from the Spanish painters, Velázquez and Ribera, absorbing a precise and uncompromising sense for actuality which he applied to portraiture and genre pictures of the life of his native city (boating and bathing were favorite themes).

He began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1876 and was attacked for his radical ideas, particularly his insistence on working from nude models. In 1886 he was forced to resign after allowing a mixed class to draw from a completely nude male model. Eakins's quest for realism led him to study anatomy and make full use of Muybridge's photographic researches, but the scientific bent in his work is of less importance than his honesty and depth of characterization. His portraits are often compared to Rembrandt's because of their dramatic play of sombre lighting and sense of inner truth. The most famous of his paintings is The Gross Clinic (Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, 1875), which aroused controversy because of its unsparing depiction of surgery, an experience that was repeated with The Agnew Clinic (University of Pennsylvania, 1889).

Because of financial support from his father, Eakins could continue on his chosen course despite public abuse, but much of his later career was spent working in bitter isolation. It was only near the end of his life that he achieved recognition as a great master, and in the first two decades of the 20th century his desire to "peer deeper into the heart of American life" was reflected in the work of the Ashcan School and other Realist painters.

As well as being a painter and photographer, Eakins also made a few sculptures. His wife, Susan Hannah Macdowell Eakins (1851-1938), whom he married in 1884, was also a painter and photographer, as well as an accomplished pianist.

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Thomas Eakins: Art, Medicine, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia by Amy Werbel – Hardcover: 208 pages; Yale University Press; 1st edition (Jun 29, 2007)

The life and work of Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), America’s most celebrated portrait painter, have long generated heated controversy. In this fresh and deeply researched interpretation of the artist, Amy Werbel sets Eakins in the context of Philadelphia’s scientific, medical, and artistic communities of the 19th century, and considers his provocative behavior in the light of other well-publicized scandals of his era.

The Revenge of Thomas Eakins (Hardcover) by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick – 576 pages; Yale University Press (Mar 28, 2006)

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review: Biographer Kirkpatrick brings the cinematic clarity of a documentary filmmaker to this portrait of Thomas Eakins, the controversial Philadelphia portrait artist whose "failure to abide by the artistic trends that defined his times" resulted in work that was richly interesting and highly controversial. Kirkpatrick takes considerable pains to portray the contradictory philosophical moorings and childlike prurience that marked Eakins's eccentric career. Prior to Eakins's resignation from the Pennsylvania Academy amid muddied allegations of impropriety, his students held him—and the capital "E" he would place on canvases in which he saw marked improvement—in great esteem. And though he was a pioneer in the use of photography and a champion of nude modeling (he was "starved for the nude," as one woman who knew him put it), Eakins's stubborn social gracelessness and proclivity for intrigue made his place in the Philadelphia art world "something like that of a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter."

Kirkpatrick's ability to suggest, through the use of letters and family anecdotes, that Eakins was aware of—and to a degree, fostered—the Byronic attitude (drafting his own obituary, Eakins wrote, "My honors are misunderstanding, persecution, & neglect, enhanced because unsought") that characterized his career is both brilliant and subtle. But most importantly, Kirkpatrick gives Eakins convincing depth that reminds readers of the ways biography can enhance appreciation of art. —Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thomas Eakins by Darrel Sewell (Editor) – Hardcover: 352 pages; Yale University Press (Oct 1, 2001)

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) is one of the most fascinating and important personalities in the history of American art. His memorable and much-loved scenes of rowing, sailing, and boxing as well as his deeply moving portraits are renowned for their vibrant realism and dramatic intensity. This beautiful and insightful book, published in conjunction with a major exhibition on the life and career of Eakins—the first in twenty years—presents a fresh perspective on the artist and his remarkable accomplishments. Lavishly illustrated with more than 250 of Eakins's most significant paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sculpture, the book features essays by prominent scholars who place his art in the context of the history and culture of late nineteenth-century Philadelphia, where he lived. The contributors also discuss how Eakins applied his French academic training to subjects that were distinctly American and part of his own immediate and complex experience. Eakins's own photographs, which he used as part of his unique creative process, are also examined for the first time in the full context of his life's work.

Thomas Eakins (Ailsa Mellon Bruce Studies in American Art) by Lloyd Goodrich – Hardcover: 752 pages; Harvard University Press; 1st edition (Oct 1, 1982)

Unlike his aristocratic contemporaries John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase, the great 19th-century realist painter Thomas Eakins depicted more prosaic topics, such as people boxing and rowing and musicians at work. While his pictures lack the enigmatic air that his peers achieved, in his passion and exactitude Eakins can be favorably compared with his idols Vel zquez and Rembrandt. He was both a hero to his students and an outcast from the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, where he was forced to resign in 1886 after daring to study the male nude with female students.

This enormous volume accompanies the largest retrospective of his work yet, organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In addition to 60 well-known easel pictures, the exhibition and this catalog includes some 120 photographs as well as examples of his work in watercolor, drawing, and sculpture. As an event, it's a turning point in expanding Eakins's reputation; only in recent decades have critics taken note of his efforts beyond painting. Several lengthy and interesting biocritical essays, themselves making up 175 pages of text, separate four sections of color plates. This is clearly the definitive monograph on one of the most significant artists America has produced. Recommended for all libraries. —Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Eakins Watercolors (Famous Artists Series) by Donelson F. Hoopes – Paperback: 88 pages; Watson-Guptill Publications; Reissue edition (Jul 1988)

Thomas Eakins: Scenes From Modern Life Director: Glenn Holsten

Color, Letterboxed, Special Edition, NTSC
DVD Release Date: September 5, 2002
Run Time: 58 minutes

Thomas Eakins: Scenes From Modern Life Director: Glenn Holsten
Color, NTSC
Release Date: Nov 1, 2001
60 minutes

Color, NTSC
Release Date: November 1, 2001
Run Time: 60 minutes

Narrated by Stage and Screen star Blythe Danner, this DVD contains the full documentary feature and an additional hour of mutli-media content and mini documentaries, Eakins' Neighborhood; The Centennial Exhibition of 1876; The Unfinished Portrait; The Bregler Collection; and more.
Punctuated by contemporary footage of the scenery displayed in his body of work. This program provides tremendous insight into the work and character of this American original is derived by interviews with curators and conservators of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, as well as scholars from many universities who share their extensive study of Eakins with the audience.

WHYY Producer Glenn Holsten follows Eakins' travels with HDTV (High Definition TV) equipment to Paris, France; Seville, Spain; North Dakota; and throughout Philadelphia to explore and film the places where Eakins found inspiration. Fascinated by the rapidly changing world, especially in Philadelphia, Eakins recorded the morphing of the times in which he lived. HDTV equipment captures every nuanced brush stroke in Eakins' work that enhances this DVD version.

Bonus CD of the soundtrack included.

Thomas Eakins: The Rowing Pictures by Helen A. Cooper, Martin A. Berger, Christina Currie, Amy Werbel Paperback: 140 pages; YU Art Gallery; New edition (Jul 11, 1998)

Thomas Eakins` extraordinary rowing pictures—some of the most celebrated and recognized images in the history of American art-appear together for the first time in this beautiful book. Fascinating information about the sport of rowing and its heroes, about Eakins` development as an artist, and about nineteenth-century social, cultural, and artistic concerns accompanies the twenty-four oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings of this extraordinary series.

Thomas Eakins: The Heroism of Modern Life by Elizabeth Johns – Paperback Reprint edition (Apr 1991) Princeton University Press

Portrait: A Life of Thomas Eakins by William S. McFeely – Hardcover: 256 pages; W. W. Norton (Nov 20, 2006)

Thomas Eakins, a native of Philadelphia, painted two worlds: one sure of its values—the surgeons, inventors, musicians, and athletes of his time—and another that reflected his own struggles with depression and sexual identity. In this evenhanded account of those struggles, William S. McFeely sheds new light on Eakins's genius and on the evocative melancholy of his portraits, particularly of women, which include many of his remarkable wife, Susan McDowell Eakins. Those deeply perceptive paintings may be the greatest expressions of his art.

One of America's leading historians, McFeely has long been an interpreter of nineteenth-century American writing. A fascinating aspect of this narrative is how he brings the painter into the company of Thoreau, Melville, and Whitman, with whom Eakins formed a deep friendship. The famous painting Swimming, for example, is likened to Walden, Typee, and to passages in Leaves of Grass.16 pages of color; 40 black-and-white illustrations.

Thomas Eakins: A Retrospective Exhibition - National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC - 10 /8/61 - 11/12/61 by Lloyd Goodrich – Paperback: 72 pages; Whitney Museum of American Art; 1st edition (1970)

The Thomas Eakins Collection of the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden by Phyllis D. Rosenzweig, Foreword by Abram Lerner – Hardcover; Smithsonian Institution Press (1977)

Thomas Eakins: His Life and Art by William Innes Homer – Hardcover: 276 pages; Abbeville Press (Nov 1992)

From Library Journal: Skilled technician in oils, sculptor, photographer, teacher, illustrator, and close observer of anatomy and movement, Eakins (1844-1916) has long stood as an anti-establishment hero in the history of American art. Noted art historian Homer reevaluates this Philadelphian's controversial career in an extraordinarily handsome critical biography. Of the 240 illustrations, 100 are color plates of Eakins's unidealized yet evocative portraits, sporting scenes, and history paintings. Many of the remaining illustrations are intriguing photographs of Eakins, his sitters, and studies for his canvases. Appendixes include a chronology and footnotes. An outstanding volume worthy of all lovers of American art, both scholarly and lay. —Kathleen Eagen Johnson, Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, N.Y.

Man Made: Thomas Eakins and the Construction of Gilded-Age Manhood (Men and Masculinity) by Martin A. Berger – Paperback: Published: Aug 7, 2000)

Often censured during his lifetime for his insistence on studying and painting from the nude, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) is now acclaimed as one of America's greatest realist painters. Man Made examines Eakins's art and life, illustrating how the artist used his canvases to cope with the complex requirements of Victorian gender. Martin Berger reads a series of Eakins's paintings, ranging from early to late works, giving a nuanced and elegant examination of Eakins's portrayal of white, middle-class manhood. This provocative cultural art history treats these paintings in terms of what they reveal about Eakins's own identity as well as the nation's changing ideals of manhood during the final years of the nineteenth century.

Thomas Eakins by John Wilmerding (Editor) – Hardcover: 212 pages; Smithsonian Books (Nov 1, 1993)

Eakins's subjects gaze intently at the world before them and, even more so, at their inner visions. These are the "warts and all" of the soul of Philadelphia society in the aftermath of the Civil War. Published on the occasion of a unique show at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the first there of a "great foreign artist who did not practise in (indeed never visited) this country," this work is the most complete study available of a provocative and penetrating genius. It combines the talents and insights of 30 Eakins scholars in its examination of the paintings and in recently rediscovered photographs by the artist. The discussion of Eakins's great interest in photography and its impact upon his work provides an added dimension to these insights. With excellent illustrations and an extensive bibliography, this scholarly work is an outstanding resource for all art libraries.—Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Thomas Eakins and the Swimming Picture by Doreen Bolger (Editor), Sarah Cash (Editor) Paperback (Feb 1996) Amon Carter Museum

This softcover, 152 page book examines a single painting that is now widely regarded as an American masterpiece: Swimming, completed in 1885 by the Philadelphia artist, Thomas Eakins

Thomas Eakins Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden by Phyllis D. Rosenzweig (Compiler), Abram Lerner – Paperback: 142 pages; University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (Oct 1979)

Thomas Eakins Rediscovered: Charles Bregler's Thomas Eakins Collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts by Kathleen A. Foster, Mark Bockrath – Hardcover: 512 pages; Yale University Press (Jan 1998)

More than fifty years ago, a treasury of studio material—including oil sketches, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and manuscripts—was rescued from the empty house of Thomas Eakins by a devoted student, Charles Bregler. This book is both a catalogue of the Bregler collection and a reassessment of Eakins`s career as read through the newly discovered materials.

The Life and Work of Thomas Eakins by Gordon Hendricks – Hardcover: 367 pages; Grossman Publishers (1974)

Thomas Eakins: A Motion Portrait (1986) Starring: Kevin Conway
NTSC format
U.S. and Canada only
55 minutes

This film combines dramatic sequences, still photography and interviews into a moving portrait of one of the greatest American painters of nudes in the early twentieth century. Narrated by Sam Waterston, this program originally premiered on PBS as part of the "American Visionaries" art history series.

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