Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Thomas Eakins - part 3

This is part 3 of a 6-part post on the works of American artist Thomas Eakins. Parts 1 – 4 feature his paintings, parts 5 – 6 his photography. Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) was the most powerful figure painter and portrait painter of his time in America. For biographical notes on Eakins, and for earlier works, see parts 1 and 2.

1888 Cowboys in the Badlands 
oil on canvas

1888 Portrait of Letitia Wilson Jordan 
oil on canvas

c1886-90 Miss Van Buren 
oil on canvas 113.1 x 81.3 cm

Amelia Van Buren, an artist who studied with Eakins, and was called "one of his most gifted pupils.” After she had ceased studying with Eakins, Van Buren frequently stayed as a guest in his Mount Vernon Street home, and likely posed for the painting during one of her visits to Philadelphia. It is possible that the portrait could have been painted during a long stay with Eakins and his wife from December 6, 1888 to August 12, 1889. Another friend and student of Eakins's, Charles Bregler, later wrote "I recall with pleasure looking on for several hours one afternoon while he (Eakins) was painting in this room that beautiful portrait of Miss Van Buren....No conversation took place, his attention being entirely concentrated on the painting."

1889 The Agnew Clinic 
oil on canvas 215.3 x 300 cm

The Agnew Clinic depicts Dr. Agnew performing a partial mastectomy in a medical amphitheatre. He stands in the left foreground, holding a scalpel. Also present are Dr. J. William White, applying a bandage to the patient; Dr. Joseph Leidy (nephew of paleontologist Joseph Leidy), taking the patient's pulse; and Dr. Ellwood R. Kirby, administering anaesthetic. In the background, Dr. Agnew's nurse, Mary Clymer, and University of Pennsylvania medical school students observe. Eakins placed himself in the painting – he is the rightmost of the pair behind the nurse – although the actual painting of him is attributed to his wife, Susan Macdowell Eakins. The painting is Eakins's largest work. It was commissioned for $750 (equivalent of approximately $19,400 today) in 1889 by three undergraduate classes at the University of Pennsylvania, to honour Dr. Agnew on the occasion of his retirement. The painting was completed quickly, in three months, rather than the year that Eakins took for The Gross Clinic. Eakins carved a Latin inscription into the painting's frame. Translated, it says: "D. Hayes Agnew M.D. The most experienced surgeon, the clearest writer and teacher, the most venerated and beloved man."

Dr. Hayes Agnew 1892

1889 Preparatory sketch for The Agnew Clinic

c1889 Study of Dr. Agnew for the Agnew Clinic

1889 Portrait of Samuel Murray

c1889 Portrait of Douglass Morgan Hall 
oil on canvas 61 x 50.8 cm

1890 Dr. Horatio C. Wood 
oil on canvas

1890 The Art Student aka Portrait of James Wright 
oil on canvas

1890-92 The Concert Singer 
oil on canvas 191.4 x 138.1 cm

1892 Weda Cook 
platinum print 24.8 x 10.8 cm

c1890 Clara 
oil on canvas

1891 Weda Cook 
oil on canvas 61 x 50.8 cm

c1890 Cowboy Singing 
 Cowboy Singing obviously relates to the oil below of approximately two years later:

1892 Home Ranch 
oil on canvas

c1891 Portrait of William H. MacDowell 
oil on canvas 71.1 x 55.9 cm

c1891 Portrait of William H. MacDowell 
watercolour on paper
 William H. Macdowell was a Philadelphia engraver and later Eakins' father-in-law.

c1891 Mr. MacDowell 
albumen silver print

1895 Portrait of Frank Hamilton Cushing 
oil on canvas 228.6 x 152.4 cm

1895 Portrait of Maud Cook 
oil on canvas 61 x 50.8 cm

c1895 Portrait of Charles Linford, the Artist 
oil on canvas

1896 Portrait of Harrison S. Morris 
oil on canvas

Harrison S. Morris (1856-1948) served as the Director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1892 to 1905. He was one of this country's first professional arts administrators, and his impact on the institution was profound. Under Morris the Academy sponsored many important exhibitions including four landmark displays of photographic art, and one-man shows by William M. Chase, Robert Henri, Everett Shinn and Edward Redfield. In addition, he led the Academy in some of its most enlightened collecting, acquiring, among many others, Winslow Homer's The Fox Hunt, Maxfield Parrish's Old King Cole, William M. Chase's Lady with a White Shawl, Cecilia Beaux's New England Woman, Henry O. Tanner's Nicodemus and Childe Hassam's Cat Boats, Newport Harbor.

Active in numerous art organizations, Morris later worked as a magazine editor. He was a prolific author of fiction, poetry, artist biographies and articles, and in 1930 penned his autobiography, Confessions in Art. While strongly critical of the Academy (having departed in a stormy row with the board), his account revealed much about art-world and Academy dynamics in the early twentieth century.

In 1891 Morris encouraged Thomas Eakins to return to the Academy exhibitions after the artist's dismissal five years earlier. In 1896 he advocated acquisition of our first Eakins painting, The Cello Player, and sat for one of Eakins's greatest portraits, a work acquired for the permanent collection in 2000.

1896 The Cello Player 
oil on canvas

1896 The Pianist (Stanley Addicks) 
oil on canvas 81.3 x 72.4 cm

c1897 Portrait of Henry Ossawa Tanner 
oil on canvas

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859 – 1937) was an African American artist. He was the first African American painter to gain international acclaim.

1897 Professor Henry A. Rowland 
oil on canvas 203.8 x 137.2 cm

1897 Study for Portrait of Professor Rowland 
oil on canvas 30.3 x 22.9 cm


  1. :-o what a wonderful blog! I loved this, and am greatly looking forward to seeing more! Also, Samuel Murray looks to have been quite the handsome fellow! lol, lets see some of his work! :P I'll be back!

  2. I'm very pleased you approve, thank you. I don't think Murray quite did as well as his tutor.


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