Robinhood Auctions

Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins


(b Philadelphia, PA, July 25, 1844; d Philadelphia, PA, July 25th 1916) American realist painter. Thomas Eakins demonstrated a new modern approach that combined scientific and artistic knowledge and experimentation with the realistic depiction of landscape, portraiture and genre paintings. He began his artistic career in 1862 at the nation's oldest art institution, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA where he would remain for four years. During this time, he supplemented his study of the figure with anatomy classes at the Jefferson Medical College. In 1866, Eakins attended the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. At this time Eakins began to integrate the use of notes, studies, pencil sketches and photographs into the preparation process of his paintings, an influence of his professor and friend Jean-Leon Gerome. During the 1870s, having returned to Philadelphia, Eakins continued to take anatomy classes and painted some of his most recognized works, including his famed sculling pictures and monumental painting, “The Gross Clinic”. He began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1876 and eventually rose to the position of Director in 1882. Two years later Eakins marries Susan Hannah Mac Dowell, one of his students. Eakins was forced to resign from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts when he removed the loincloth of a male model in the presence of his female students. In 1887, the year after he left the Academy, Eakins was invited by friend and patron Dr. Horatio C. Wood to spend time at the B-T Ranch, near the edge of the Badlands in the Dakota Territory. The ten weeks that followed his arrival to the Ranch witnessed a creative output that re-energized the artist, inspiring a masterful portrayal of light and space in his work.* Towards the turn of the century, Eakins began to work almost exclusively on realistic life-size portraits; of friends, scientists, musicians, artists, and clergymen. The portraits, characterized by a palette of darker colors and absence of outdoor light, evocate not only the realistic form and details but also the personality of the sitter. The paintings focused on the isolation and the gaze of the sitter, which seem to reflect a self-acceptance of the vulnerabilities, weakness and transience of life. Thomas Eakins died of a heart failure on Sunday, June 25th, 1916. (Credit: *Christie's, New York, Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May 22, 2003, Lot 32)