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Artists Thomas Eakins

Thomas Eakins

American Painter, Photographer, and Teacher

Thomas Eakins Photo
Movements and Styles: Realism, Early American Modernism

Born: July 25,1844 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died: June 25, 1916 - Philadelphia Pennsylvania

"To draw the human figure is necessary to know as much as possible about it, about its structure and its movements, its bones and muscles, how they are made, and how they act."

Thomas Eakins Signature

Summary

Working primarily in the second half of the 19th century, Thomas Eakins painted portraits and sporting scenes with resolute Realism. His style renounced idealized and romantic depictions and advocated instead for precise investigation of the human form and the natural world. He embraced photography from its beginning as a tool to prepare his compositions and his bold and resolute paintings would greatly influence the next generation of American Realists known as the Ashcan School.

Key Ideas

Eakins was committed to scientific inquiry of natural laws to the point that he took anatomy lessons and observed dissections and surgeries. His uncompromising realism based on his astute observations brought a scientific rigor to his painting practice.
Because he felt that professional artists needed to have complete knowledge of the human body and its workings, Eakins insisted on working from nude models. Controversially eschewing Victorian propriety, both his male and female students learned to draw observing the nude figure.
Eakins' depictions of men and women were markedly different. His men, usually middle-class and professional, were portrayed at work or pursuing leisure activities, such as rowing and swimming. They embodied a virile masculinity with calm and repose. His women, however, were always shown in interior settings, and he emphasized their inner world, showing them in contemplation.
Thomas Eakins Photo

Thomas Eakins was the eldest of five children born to Benjamin and Caroline Eakins. Despite a supportive and secure childhood, Eakins experienced losses early in life, including the death of his younger brother.

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