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Thomas Eakins: The Rowing Pictures (Yale University Art Gallery) [Paperback]

Helen Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 July 1998 Yale University Art Gallery
During the 1870s, rowing because a tremendously popular sport in the United States. An enthusiastic rower, the young Philadelphia-born Thomas Eakins painted, sketched, and drew an extraordinary series of rowing pictures that were the most ambitious project of his early career. He brought to the theme his personal experiences as an avid amateur rower on his beloved Schuylkill River, and a scientific understanding of the physical effort involved. His 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. 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 discuss 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. Just as sculling is dependent upon precision, practice and unwavering dedication, so the paintings were constructed from scrupulous observation of details and intense preparation. In the less than four years in which the rowing pictures were created, Eakins moved subtly from the analytic and descriptive toward the more intuitive and suggestive.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (21 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300077858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300077858
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 19.3 x 28 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,559,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The American artist, Thomas Eakins, 1844-1916, is well known for his in-depth psychological portraits and for a group of rowing pictures painted between 1871-74. In the museum, catalogue and art monograph, we generally see the finished painting and so are largely unaware of the amount of mental and physical preparation, planning and painting that lies behind the work.

In 1996-97, an exhibition was organised to illuminate Eakins' creative process by the Yale University Art Gallery and shown there, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Cleveland Museum of Art. The focus was the rowing pictures since these are amongst the best known and recognised works in the artist's oeuvre, were painted in the years following the artist's return to America, reflect a motif that had never been painted before as `fine art' and for which many of the preparatory works were known.

The catalogue contains 25 works, fewer than in most shows, but with an additional 47 sketches, working drawings to work out perspectives etc. There are 5 essays, "Eakin's Early Years: An Introduction" and "Rowing in the Art and Life of Thomas Eakins", both by Helen A. Cooper, "Perspective in Eakins' Rowing Pictures", by Amy B. Werbel, "Thomas Eakins Under the Microscope: A Technical Study of the Rowing Pictures", by Christina Currie, and "Painting Victorian Manhood", by Martin A. Berger. The catalogue is completed by a Selected Bibliography and a List of Works in the Exhibition.

In her first essay, Cooper describes the artist's early life until he returns from studies in Paris working in Gérôme's atelier and with the sculptor, Augustin Alexandre Dumont to gain a better understanding of form and structure. Eakins then went to Madrid, where he discovered Velásquez, and on to Seville.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 22 April 2010
Little known outside the USA, Eakins was one of the greatest 19th century American artists. This small gem of a book is testament to his brilliance.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eakins on the Schuylkill River 21 Aug 2010
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Any opportunity to study the works of Thomas Eakins is a pleasure. This small book from Yale University focuses on only one aspect of Eakins' work - The Rowing Pictures. Though there are only twenty-four true paintings of the Rowing Series, these paintings are so extraordinarily fine that having fewer of them makes the all the more precious. The creators of the book, based on an exhibition that started at The National Gallery of Art, are a solid group: Helen A. Cooper, Prof. Martin A. Berger, Christina Currie, and Prof. Amy Werbel have included the many sketches and perspective drawings upon which Eakins depended and added commentary about the artist's life and times - always a tricky door to open depending on the audience!

There is considerable writing about the sport of rowing, the areas where the paintings were based (the Schuylkill River), the particular rowers such as the Biglin Brothers, and Eakins fascination with the mechanism of the sculls - whether meant for one or two rowers. But the real glory of this series of paintings lies in the art works themselves. There is a majestically beautiful use of light and reflection as well as some closely observed muscular involvement required by this sport. The only flaw in this book is its rather small scale; making the book bigger and thus allowing better reproductions of the paintings would have enhanced this otherwise superb survey of one of the many branches of the art of Thomas Eakins. Grady Harp, August 10
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Masterpiece 25 Mar 2008
By GodfatherInOhio - Published on Amazon.com
Thomas Eakins is in my opinion the greatest artist that America's ever produced. His work is absolutely sublime. I saw some of his works at my local art museum. It's incredible, they paintings look almost like photographs, they're so lifelike.
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