An uncompromising realism characterizes Thomas Eakins's philosophy of work and life. His rejection of conventional ideas about artistic training (for instance, he required all his students - female, as well as male - to draw from the nude) led, in part, to his forced resignation as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1886. So, too, he rejected traditional ideas of beauty in his honest and revealing portraits. Not surprisingly, these essentially private portrayals were unpopular during Eakins's day.
|The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), 1871Thomas Eakins. MET|
This painting, The Champion Single Sculls, Eakins's first outdoor painting executed in the US, has a precision of detail and atmosphere unchallenged in America naturalistic painting at this time and reflects his European training in Realist painting sty;es. Set during a late summer afternoon, the work reveals tranquil, almost melancholy quality as the principal figure - rows across the broad passage of water before the distant Girard Avenue Bridge. Eakins himself is depicted in the red boat in the distance. Part of the artist's effect is achieved through his powerful colour control, revealed by by sky blues and pearly clouds above the orange and terracotta shades of the trees, complementing the statuesque rower, who pauses momentarily in the midst of his effort.
Art Institute of Chicago