Thomas Eakins


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The Rowing Pictures

Helen A. Cooper; With contributions by Martin A. Berger, Christina Currie, and Amy B. Werbel


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During the 1870s rowing became a tremendously popular sport in the United States. An enthusiastic rower, the young Thomas Eakins painted, sketched, and drew an extraordinary series of rowing pictures that were the most ambitious project of his early career. Eakins' 24 rowing works, which include some of the most celebrated and recognized images in the history of American art, are brought together and examined as a group for the first time in this beautiful book. Together they shed light on the artist's creative process and subsequent achievements as well as on social, cultural, and artistic concerns central to nineteenth-century audiences.

Helen A. Cooper along with essayists Martin A. Berger, Christina Currie, and Amy B. Werbel, discusses various aspects of Eakins' rowing series, explaining his affection for the sport, his adoption of the images of popular culture into the realm of fine art, his commitment to novel, "modern" subjects, his preoccupation with perspective and measurement, and his belief that the most profound artistic truths were best expressed through the human figure—particularly the male figure. A comparison of the rowing pictures reveals that over the four years in which they were created, Eakins moved subtly from the analytic and descriptive toward the more feeling and suggestive. As a group devoted to a single subject, the series is unmatched in the oeuvre of this masterful painter.

Distributed for the Yale University Art Gallery

Helen A. Cooper is the Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery.

"A remarkable book."—Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"This book is noteworthy in that Cooper is the first writer to put Eakins’ rowing scenes so clearly and vividly into their historical context. She documents in detail the fascination with professional rowing that gripped Philadelphians (and most Americans) in the 1870s….An attractive book."—Choice

"Attractively slim yet informative."—John Updike, New York Review of Books

"Cooper has all the answers."—John Russell, New York Times

"This comprehensive catalogue celebrates the glowing rowing works of America’s pre-eminent realist artist, certainly of the nineteenth century. It firmly establishes Eakins mastery of the genre and his seminal role in promoting heroes in the sport of rowing. Cooper’s superb contribution, while not for the dilettante, will appeal to those who love rowing and art."—Harold L. Ray, The International Journal of the History of Sport

ISBN: 9780300069396
Publication Date: July 24, 1996
Publishing Partner: Distributed for the Yale University Art Gallery
140 pages, 7 5/8 x 11
30 b/w + 45 color illus.
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