Thomas Eakins

  • 1844 - 1916
  • Photographer
  • American

Thomas Eakins spent virtually his entire life in and around Philadelphia, except for a three-and-a-half-year period between 1866 and 1870 when he was an art student in Paris. Primarily a painter and sculptor, Eakins did not make photographs for exhibition. He made private portraits of family and friends, scientific documents, and used his photographs as teaching tools for his art classes and his work in other media.

"Should men make only the statues of men to be looked at by men, while the statues of women should be made by women to be looked at by women only? Should the he-painters draw the horses and bulls, and the she-painters...the mares and cows?"

So Eakins defended his predilection for the nude studies in non-formal settings that make up the bulk of his photographic work. The use of these photographs in the classroom eventually led to Eakins's dismissal as Director of Instruction at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1886. Interestingly enough, his paintings and sculpture rarely included nude figures, and his desire to evoke a realistic classicism was more successfully achieved in his photographs.