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Thomas Eakins - Scenes from Modern Life HOME
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Back New Ways of Seeing
Animation of Wright Brothers Flight Photograph of Dr. Roentgen's x-ray of Albert von Kolliker Portrait of Henry O. Tanner, by Thomas Eakins
ST. CHARLES
PORTRAIT AS SELF-PORTRAIT
NEW WAYS OF SEEING
Eakins' portrait of Henry O. Tanner is also an interesting picture, a key one in his late career because that date is so nice in thinking of the parallels in what else is going on in the intellectual world, in the wider world of the arts and sciences both in America and abroad. JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
Looking Down
Just a few months before Dec. 1903 the Wright Brothers lift off the earth for the first time. That's a significant moment for the entire 20th century that follows because for the first time it was the beginning of our moving literally into the sky, into the cosmos, and we saw the earth for the first time from a new point of view, moving beneath us. The whole relationship between man and space begins to change.
JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
Looking In
You have Einstein expounding his theory of relativity. Well, it took us more than a century to understand it if we still do, but the point is there, too, was one of the great revolutions in understanding the human condition and the physical world in which we live -- molecular structure, the meaning of time and space.
JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
Looking Through
You have Frank Lloyd Wright doing his remarkable prairie houses. For the first time the buildings are seen and built so that they no longer have a skin around them. The walls no longer separate inside from outside by means of flowing open spaces. The notion of the terrace breaks down the boundary between landscape and interior, there's no central room, spaces are fluid.
JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
Looking Apart
In another year or so you have Picasso and Braque beginning cubism, and what is cubism after all but the effort to fragment the human form. Certainly by the end of Eakins career since he paints these magnificent great portraits, he is a realist but he's something else. He has moved us to the threshold of abstraction in design, in spacial compression, in suggestiveness in ambiguity; space is no longer quite solid. Just look at the surfaces of backgrounds of late Eakins paintings. It's mere brushwork but mere brushwork is everything because it carries emotional content, it suggests something both here and now as well as, in a sense, something utterly unsolid, utterly mental. So Eakins is participating in this great revolution that's as prophetic as Goya, Cezanne or Van Gogh.
JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
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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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