Thomas Eakins is overwhelmingly considered one of the most important American artists. The Pennsylvanian would have been a whopping 172 years old today. His art was deeply influenced by his interest in the anatomy of the human form and the study of motion. The realist painter, photographer, and sculptor took to educating aspiring artists later in his career, and he was both admired and admonished for his controversial and progressive teaching methods.
The painting below—like almost all of Eakins’ portraits—is not a commissioned work, but was done out of friendship. The pensive subject is Gertrude Murray, the sister of one of the artist’s most loyal friends and with whom he shared studio space. As is typical of his extraordinarily moving late portraits, Eakins has isolated his sitter against a neutral background, showing her absorbed in thought. He sets up a tension between his sketchy, bold handling of paint and his intensely observed realism.
Cheers to Thomas!
Julie Henley is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.