Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), America’s greatest, most uncompromising realist, dedicated his career to depicting the human figure—in oil and watercolor, sculpture and photography. Eakins was born in Philadelphia in 1844. He was enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1862 to 1866, attended anatomy lectures at Jefferson Medical College, and profited from contact with Philadelphia’s art collections, exhibitions, and artists. Arriving in Paris for study in 1866, Eakins was in the vanguard of young painters who would shift the focus of American art from landscape to the figural subjects favored by the European academies. After almost three years of instruction in France, principally at the École des Beaux-Arts under Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904) and briefly with the portraitist Léon Bonnat (1833–1922), and a winter working in Spain, Eakins returned to Philadelphia in July 1870. From boyhood, he had himself been athletic; as an ambitious, original young artist intent on portraying the world around him, he embraced as subjects the activities that he himself enjoyed, which provided opportunities to demonstrate his technical skill.
While Eakins was painting works that expressed his admiration of athletes and outdoor activities, he was also creating intense, brooding images of women and children in quiet, shadowed interiors. These canvases, usually of friends and family, straddle the divide between genre and portraiture. In late March 1875, the artist wrote to a friend, “I feel to myself that I am going soon to do work so much better than anything that I have made yet.” It seems likely that the project sparking Eakins’ enthusiasm was the canvas that occupied him for almost a year—The Gross Clinic (1875; Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia)—and that provoked much controversy at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
Having begun teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1876, he transformed it into the leading art school in America. However, discontent also arose concerning his teaching methods, especially his emphasis on the nude. Eakins’ own easy acceptance of nudity as an essential element of academic study did not please Victorian Philadelphia. In January 1886, lecturing about the pelvis to a class that included female students, Eakins removed a loincloth from a male model so that he could trace the course of a muscle. Angry protests by parents and students forced him to resign at the request of the Academy board.
From 1887 until the end of his career, Eakins focused almost exclusively on portraiture. He usually worked at life scale, renouncing outdoor light and focusing on the sitter in isolation. His portraits reflect an investigative candor that is distant from the glamour or artiness in the paintings of his peers James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Eakins rarely received commissions for portraits and most of his sitters were friends or acquaintances. In 1898 and 1899, for the first time since the 1870s, Eakins returned to the subject of athletics. His boxing and wrestling pictures are as revolutionary in their subject matter as his earlier rowing scenes. Although few critical voices actively promoted Eakins’ vision, the sheer steadiness of his quest to center his art on the accurate portrayal of the human figure had won him a position in the art world.
Eakins died on June 25, 1916. In November 1917, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a memorial exhibition of sixty of his paintings. The Pennsylvania Academy followed a month later with an exhibition of 139 works. By the early 1930s, Eakins was considered one of America’s greatest artists, the reputation he enjoys today.
H. Barbara Weinberg
The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Painting is not just for the professional. Painting can be a pastime or a hobby too; and pursued for the satisfaction of simply trying something one has always wondered whether or not they could do. There is nothing wrong with being an amateur at painting. It is a beginning. Many professionals were once amateurs.
Besides, the word amateur comes from the Latin word, "amator" which means . . . "One who loves." That certainly gives you a better feeling about the word amateur. The amateur painter is not even thinking of selling his or her paintings. Painting is done solely for the enjoyment they love along with them being a bit sentimental about their work. Although that does not mean there won't come a time when selling their art does become desirable. Eventually they may want the satisfaction of knowing that someone likes their art so much, that that person is willing to pay to have their work.
In nursing homes or assisted living homes, people could consider joining art classes. If they do, they will find it pleasurable and also a challenge that keeps their mind in tune. They will find themselves becoming aborbed in this past-time hobby. Plus, there will be a comradship among other's who are taking the classes. You will not feel so alone. Taking those classes can offer a person great mental stimulation, psychological therapy, peace of mind, a feeling of purpose, and pleasure. There are many benefits to the hobby of painting.
Painting attracts so many people today of all ages. I think most people like the idea of painting something of beauty and feeling good about being able to say they painted it. Painting as a hobby can be relaxing in a stress filled life. It can be an escape into another world, a world of calm. Anyone can pick painting up as a hobby and enjoy it. One will not find themself dealing with boredom when taking up painting. Plus, they can do a painting and even give it as a gift.
There are so many available painting classes offered today. Join a class and then all you need do once you get those supplies is
listen to the teacher, put your canvas on the easel, pick up the palette, squeeze the paint colors out of the tubes, dip the brush into it and start laying it onto the canvas. That is when you just may find yourself feeling like Rembrandt or Monet!!