Thomas Eakins’s 19th Century Photography and Painting

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Thomas Eakins lived from 1844-1916, and spent the majority of that time as an artist – painting, photographing, sculpting, and teaching others the craft. He was an American realist painter whose style is remembered for its loose, rich color. Eakins used photography, still a relatively new technology at the time, to study the details of a body in motion as it travels through space – a practice now regarded as one of his most important innovations.

“Strain your brain more than your eye… You can copy a thing to a certain limit. Then you must use intellect.”

-advice to his art students; quoted in Lloyd Goodrich, Thomas Eakins (1933)

Photography

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Motion study: Male Nude, Standing Jump to Right, 1885.
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Motion Study: George Reynolds, nude, pole-vaulting to left, 1885
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Photograph study for ‘The Wrestlers.’
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He explored the heart of American life through portraiture, but didn’t receive recognition until late in life because of his role as a controversial figure when it came to the sexes. His studies of the male nude were often regarded as homoerotic, and later made him a major figure of art historical sexuality studies in the 1990s.

He insisted on teaching men and women the same way, using male models in female classes and vice versa, but was also accused of abusing female students. The scandals cut his success short, and his influence in the history of art was only realized after his death.

 

Painting

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“The Wrestlers”
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“Baby at Play”
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“The Swimming Hole,” 1884-85
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“An Arcadian”
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For more info about Thomas Eakin, see the artist’s Wikipedia page.

 

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