Eakins, Thomas


Eakins, Thomas

biographical name

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Thomas Eakins, detail of a self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1902; in the National Academy of Design, …—Courtesy of the National Academy of Design, New York

(born July 25, 1844, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.—died June 25, 1916, Philadelphia) U.S. painter. After early training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1866–70), he spent most of his life in his native Philadelphia. He reinforced his study of the live model at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts by studying anatomy at a medical college. The Gross Clinic (1875), depicting a surgical operation, was too realistic for his contemporaries but is now seen as his masterpiece. In 1876 he began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy, but he was forced to resign in 1886 for working with nude models in mixed classes. In addition to numerous portraits, he painted boating and other outdoor scenes that reflect his fascination with the human body in motion. His interest in locomotion led him to the sequential photography of Eadweard Muybridge, and he began producing photographs and sculpture as well as paintings. Perhaps the most outstanding U.S. painter of the 19th century, his work inspired the trend of realism in American painting in the early 20th century.

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