Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Thomas Eakins - Scenes from Modern Life HOME
About the Film Timeline Biography Image Gallery World Events For Educators
Back École des Beaux Arts
Photograph of Jean-Léon Gérôme Photograph of Atelier de École des Beaux Arts Portrait of Nude Man (Strong Man), Thomas Eakins
ECOLE DES BEAUX ARTS
LETTERS HOME
PARIS
Eakins chose to study with Jean-Léon Gérôme, one of the youngest teachers at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Eakins' experience with his dashing 42-year old teacher shaped his concept of the ideal student-teacher relationship.  
In Paris the art community was huge. There were thousands of artists working in Paris, thousands. And when he crossed through the doors of the Ecole des Beaux Arts he could go through studio after studio of young men learning to be painters. So he was suddenly surrounded, he had this community of common purpose in Paris. People who took making art seriously, who devoted their lives to it. It must have been exhilarating for him and I think it formed him forever. It created a kind of conviction in him, that this was a life-way, this was an important way for him to spend his life, that he could dedicate himself to this job. KATHLEEN A. FOSTER, Ph.D.
Curator, Indiana University Art Museum
Gérôme was terrifying, he often reduced his students to tears and Eakins trembled when Gérôme would come around and look over his shoulder and make corrections to his paintings. But Eakins loved it, he loved being treated seriously, he loved getting this kind of resistance because this is what he hadn't been getting in Philadelphia, was the attention of a professional painter to give him this kind of advice.

Gérôme was an officer in the legion of honor, and so he literally wore a military uniform from time to time. This kind of celebrity was also a model for Eakins, he could see in France that painters were given this kind of dignity, this kind of respect from their culture. And I think he went back to Philadelphia hoping for that kind of respect.
Jean-Léon Gérôme
The studios at the Ecole des Beaux Arts were crowded. Each one of the ateliers probably had 40 60 painters at work. They were bustling. They were also famously boisterous. They were often very raucous. Gérôme's studio in particular, was shut down a couple of times for fighting and for just general mayhem.

The curriculum of the academy both in Philadelphia and in Paris was based on the study of the human form. This was a tradition from the renaissance, the very first art academy is created by Leonardo Da Vinci , began with the study of the human form and so for four-hundred years western artists had been dedicated to painting figure subjects as the most important the most exalted thing that a painter or a sculptor could do. So this was the centerpiece of tuition here, all-day-every-day that's what you did you went to life class you studied from the human figure -- that was meant to be your training ground, because the theory was, if you could paint the human figure well, you could paint anything. It was the most difficult, the most complicated and the most divine of subjects.
Gérôme's Atelier
About the Film | Timeline | Biography | Image Gallery | World Events | For Educators | Credits

Please Note: This web site contains several black and white archival photographs of nude male and female models, including some photographs of Eakins himself.

© 2002 WHYY, Incorporated. All Rights Reserved. PBS.org Privacy Policy