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Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)


Also known as:  Eakins, Thomas Cowperthwait

Birth Place: Philadelphia (Philadelphia county, Pennsylvania, United States)

Born in Philadelphia in 1844, Thomas Eakins used oil and watercolor painting, sculpture, and photography to create realist artworks in a time when the portrait was most often marked by idealism. Best known as a painter, he was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1862 to 1866 and studied anatomy at Jefferson Medical College before taking classes at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This education helped him to paint distinctly American subjects with European Beaux-Arts techniques. When he returned to America, he was a major figure in the Philadelphia art scene and began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1876. Eakins married Susan Hannah MacDowell, one of his painting students, in 1884. At the Academy, his emphasis on teaching from nude figures caused controversy, eventually leading to his resignation by request of the Academy's board.

Many of his notable works are of athletes, outdoor scenes, medical amphitheaters, or detailed character studies. His insistence on pure realism set him apart from his peers and transformed his portraits into truly fascinating pieces of art. Furthermore, Eakins' paintings capture American life in the Victorian era in highly original ways. Also notable for being among the first to bring the camera into the artist's studio, many of his photographic studies for paintings are brilliant in their own right. A brief list of his best paintings must include The Gross Clinic (1875), Miss Amelia Van Buren (1891), and The Wrestlers (1899). While he was under-appreciated in his lifetime, Eakins has been widely recognized since his death in 1916.

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