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Thomas Eakins - Scenes from Modern Life HOME
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Back Nudity vs. Obscenity
Swimming, Thomas Eakins Swimming, Thomas Eakins Swimming, Thomas Eakins
One of the most vocal opponents of nudity in art is Anthony Comstock, the enforcer of the Comstock Law of 1873, which prohibited any "obscene" materials from passing through the U.S. mails. In 1883 Comstock writes, "The effect of this cursed business on our youth and society, no pen can describe. It breeds lust. Lust defiles the body, debauches the imagination, corrupts the mind, deadens the will, destroys the memory, sears the conscience, hardens the heart and damns the soul." In Philadelphia, Comstock finds a kindred soul in the person of Josiah W. Leeds, a Quaker and former grammar-school history teacher. Leeds directs his reformist energies to lewd entertainment, such as the can-can dancing in variety halls fed by the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.

Throughout the 1880s Josiah Leeds and Anthony Comstock publicly attack nudity in art, prize fighting, theaters, ballet, Sunday bathing and Walt Whitman. Eakins champions them in painting and photography.
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Please Note: This web site contains several black and white archival photographs of nude male and female models, including some photographs of Eakins himself.

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