On his return to Philadelphia in 1870 he established his studio, later working as Professor of Anatomy at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Besides figures, he painted many genre scenes, such as The Chess Players, which was critically acclaimed when exhibited at the Centennial Exposition of 1876.
His greatest masterpiece The Gross Clinic shows his mastery of portraiture and anatomy as the eminent surgeon Professor Gross demonstrates an operation to a group of medical students. Eakins also excelled as a sculptor and many of his paintings have a sculptural quality. He painted athletes and sportsmen, African Americans and rural subjects.
A keen oarsman, Thomas Eakins painted this work around 1872, shortly after his return to America from a customary period of study in Paris, where he met Manet. In this painting, Eakins depicts The Biglin Brothers Racing, a famous team of rowers. While Edgar Degas mingled with the crowd at the Longchamp racetrack in Paris, Eakins made a vital contribution to the development of a new pictorial genre: sporting competition. No longer an elitist, aristocratic pastime, sports were gaining popularity among the masses. In fact, by the late nineteenth century, sports dominated the newfound leisure time of the English-speaking world.
The first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, marked the dawn of a new era. In the portrayal of modern sporting events, artists of the period looked to the individual bodies of ancient Greek art for inspiration. Rowers, runners, boxers, tennis and rugby players inspired a novel observation of the human body that also involved the development of a technique for rendering an image in motion. Eakins also took a keen interest in the new technologies of motion photography, a field in which he is now seen as an innovator, pole jumpers, and horse riders are among the first subjects of the earliest photographic sequences. Years later, Futurists would later try to interpret this motion onto the canvas.
Thomas Eakins was unable to sell many of his works during his lifetime when he died in 1916, a large body of artwork passed to his widow, Susan Macdowell Eakins. She preserved it, donating some of the strongest pieces to various museums. When she died in 1938, much of the remaining artistic estate was destroyed or damaged by executors, and the remainders were salvaged by a former Eakins student.
In 2006, The Gross Clinic was sold to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC for $68,000,000, the highest price for a Thomas Eakins painting as well as a record price for an individual American-made portrait. Thomas Eakins is regarded by most critics as the outstanding American painter of the 19th century and by many as the greatest America has yet produced joining the ranks of the world's artist.
Art Movement History: Realism.
Artists Influencing Thomas Eakins: Jean-Léon Gérôme, Léon Bonnat.
He Traveled To France, Spain.
Painters Thomas Eakins Influenced: Henry Tanner, Thomas Pollock Anshutz, Edward Redfield, Colin Cooper.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.