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Two American Realist Painters. ≈ ≈ ≈ Winslow Homer & Thomas Eakins. Portrait of Maud Cook (1895) by Thomas Eakins.

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two american realist painters

Two American Realist Painters

≈ ≈ ≈

Winslow Homer & Thomas Eakins

Portrait of Maud Cook (1895) by Thomas Eakins

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Winslow Homer (1836-1910) is considered one of the foremost painters of the 19th century, leading American art out of the romanticism of the mid-1800s and toward the heights of realism.
  • By the time he was 21, he had established himself as a freelance illustrator in New York City. During the Civil War, Harper’s Weekly employed him to illustrate battle scenes.
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Concerning this drawing, Sharpshooter on Picket Duty,Homer wrote, “I was not a soldier but a camp follower & artist. The above impression struck me as being as near murder as anything I ever could think of in connection with the army & I always had a horror of that branch of the service.”
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Early in his career, Homer painted many scenes of rural American life in his characteristic naturalist style.Snap the Whip (1872)
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In this painting (The Watermelon Boys [1876]) & the previous one, Homer celebrated boyhood and pastoralism.
  • No surprise that Bantam placed it on the cover of its edition of Huckleberry Finn.
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Homer eventually settled on the coast of Maine, where he painted great works of the sea, such as Lost on the Grand Banks (1885), remarkable for their intensity of feeling & stirring grandeur.
  • Bill Gates bought this painting in 1998 for $30 million.
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“In the Northeaster [1895], as in many other [Homer] paintings, this quality of simplicity is remarkably exemplified. A few massive rock forms combined with onrushing waves are made to give one a tremendous sense of power and reality.” —John W. Beatty

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Homer’s direct & energetic interpretation of man's stoic relationship to a neutral & often harsh wilderness influenced succeeding generations of American painters. The Gulf Stream (1899)
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Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) was a painter, photographer, sculptor, & fine arts educator.
  • Esteemed for his powers of characterization & mastery of technique, he is associated with realism & is often identified as one of the fathers of American painting.
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He painted many scenes of outdoor life and sporting events. Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (1871)

          Back to main page for this exhibition          Back to images from this exhibition          Back to smaller view of this object

Thomas Eakins

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Born in Philadelphia, Eakins studied art at the Penn-sylvania Academy of Fine Arts and anatomy at Jefferson Medical College. John Biglin in a Single Scull (1874)
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Eakins tried to achieve scientific accuracy & painstaking detail without losing feeling.
  • Stunningly illuminated, Dr. Gross is the embodiment of heroic rationalism, a symbol of the intellectual achievement that Eakins held dear.
  • The Clinic of Dr. Gross (1875)
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He began teaching at the PAFA in 1876, where he helped develop photographic techniques for studying the human body in motion.
  • Motion Study: male running jump to left (ca. 1885)
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Though few painters took photography seriously, Eakins believed it was a tool to better represent the physical world.
  • Photograph of Thomas Eakins and students, swimming nude (ca. 1883)
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In 1886, during one of his anatomy lectures, Eakins removed a loincloth from a male model in the presence of women students. After receiving complaints, the head of the academy asked Eakins to tender his resignation. Swimming (1885)
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Deeply affected by his dismissal from the academy, Eakins turned to portraiture.
  • While he approached these portraits with the skill of a trained anatomist, what is noteworthy is the intense psychological presence of his sitters.
  • His portrait of Walt Whitman (1887) was the poet's favorite.
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The Agnew Clinic (1889) “To draw the human figure it is necessary to know as much as possible about it, about its structure and its movements, its bones and muscles, how they are made, and how they act.” —Thomas Eakins
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“I never knew of but one artist, and this is Tom Eakins, who could resist the temptation to see what they think ought to be rather than what is.” —Walt Whitman
  • Eakins's attitude toward realism in painting, and his desire to explore the heart of American life strongly influenced the Ashcan School, the first important group of 20th-century American artists.
  • The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton (1900)