Realism and Classicism: Thomas Eakins'S Representations of the Human Body(2/2)

Project Details


In art historical study, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) is regarded as a realist master and a pioneer in American modern art. He is noted for introducing the system of life model painting from École des Beaux-Arts in Paris to the art academy in Philadelphia, and depicting the outstanding figures in the fields of medicine, literature, and sport in America for the first time. Eakins has been devoted to integrating the realist and classical aesthetics, but his insistence on the curriculum of nude figure drawing and anatomy caused heated controversy and eventually his forced resignation from the academy. This project focuses on Eakins’s representations of the human body, as his creative production, encompassing the media of painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture, has centered on the body. In a variety of manners, his oeuvre evokes the strength and fragility of the body, and delineates the locomotion and stillness of the body. I will discuss Eakins’s positivist observation of the human body and the visual pleasure and pain induced from his work. I will consider the ways Eakins blended his life experiences in the modern society and his long-held interest in classical learning. I will address the following main issues: the plural contexts of realism, the interconnections between painting and photography of the human body, the corporeal experiences and the problem of visibility, the classical and modern bodily techne, and the gendered culture of the Gilded Age. The scholarly significance of this project lies in the cross-cultural and intermedia approach to reexamine Eakins’s iconography of the body. It aims to elucidate his artistic legacy of representing the corporeal materiality in the light of philosophical discourse on the body.
Effective start/end date1/08/2031/07/22

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • human body
  • representation
  • realism
  • classicism
  • sexuality
  • nude
  • photography
  • painting
  • modernity
  • sport
  • art academy
  • materiality


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