By Kathleen Storey
Thomas Eakins, one of the most important American artists, was born on this day in 1844. Eakins specialized in many different areas of art. He was a sculptor, a photographer, a realist painter and an arts educator. His very influential career spanned more than 40 years, during which he painted several hundred portraits, choosing as his subjects people from his hometown of Philadelphia, PA.
Later, he decided to take the people he painted out of his drawing room and into society. He loved to paint them in parks, offices, arenas and on streets. These outdoor venues allowed him to paint his figures the way he wanted, nude or lightly clothed and in motion. Aside from painting, Eakins developed a huge interest in the new technology of motion photography, a field in which he was seen as an innovator.
During his lifetime, he received little to no recognition for his outstanding works of art. However, since his death in 1916, American art historians have described his as, “the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American art.”