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 St. Charles
Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo
ST. CHARLES
PORTRAIT AS SELF-PORTRAIT
NEW WAYS OF SEEING
Eakins first enters the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary outside Philadelphia in the 1870's when he paints a portrait of Archbishop James Frederick Wood. Archbishop Wood was a personal friend of Dr. Samuel Gross and had just been elevated to the first Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia. Almost thirty years later Eakins returns to St. Charles, to paint a series of portraits of the Seminary's clerics and residents.  
Eakins used to bicycle out here with his favorite pupil Samuel Murray, often on Sundays. And one can see what kind of appeal it must have had for him to come out to this beautiful park-like setting away from the downtown hubbub. And evidently he came not only to enjoy the scenery but to hear music in this very chapel, Sunday vespers. He enjoyed, it was said, speaking Latin with the clerics. One can see Eakins being fulfilled intellectually, emotionally and discovering in the process this remarkable group of priests who were here and residents, writers, theoreticians. He became close friends with many of them, and painted a remarkable group in its variety. JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
Eakins' father dies December 30, 1899. I do think it's interesting that in the following year it's when he comes back out to this seminary and begins this active series of portraits. Somehow there was literal but also metaphoric relief as he came out to these green spaces and into this chapel to hear music and Latin. One wonders whether these figures in some way didn't represent in a larger sense a replacement father figure. They represented wisdom, they represented maturity, and calm and power, and authority. JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
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