Discovering Art

Early Years of Thomas Eakins

This is the first of 3 lectures on Thomas Eakins, highly talented and unconventional for American tastes of the time. His art was complex with a wide range of subjects – portraits of friends and family, hunting scenes, sports figures, horses and theatre scenes. After traveling in Europe, especially Spain, he returned to Philadelphia, painting unconventional subjects of rowers, which were a financial disaster, and anatomical medical paintings, especially of "the Gross Clinic", a painting we will study in detail.

Middle Years of Thomas Eakins

After his early rejection by the American public, Eakins moved on to paint figures, nudes and portraits of Walt Whitman, for example, His skill and preparation became evident in his depictions of horses and nude figures found in "Swimming" of 1884. This use of male nudity resulted in scandal when he was dismissed as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts after allegations of sexual impropriety.