When I think of artists whose paintings and sculptures captured the essence of the American West, the names that come to mind are:
Charles Russell (1864-1926) His dramatic representations usually show men on horseback.
|"Bronc to Breakfast" - Charles Russell|
|"Tipis" - George Catlin|
Thomas Moran (1837-1926) His paintings focused on western landscapes.
|"Green River Wyoming" - Thomas Moran|
|"Prong-horned Antelope" - Albert Bierstadt|
Frederick Remington (1861-1909) His artistic talents leaned toward paintings and sculptures involving cavalry officers, Native Americans, and horses. He provided illustrations of the American West for magazines.
|"Fight for the Waterhole" - Frederick Remington|
|Thomas Eakins self-portrait|
His works, while not strictly focused on the west, are a more well-rounded study of the human condition of the time, albeit, the ‘eastern’ time
Life in the American east and in Europe influenced the happenings in the west. The fashions, medicine and medical milestones, transportation, sports, leisure, and the day-to-day living “back east” had eventual impacts on life out west, and Thomas Eakins’ paintings show us those connections. For me, the ‘life’ he painted and preserved on canvas and his photography tell a broader story of what real life was like back then.
Eakins was a realist painter, photographer, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. Other than trips abroad, he lived his life in his home town of Philadelphia, and the subjects of his art were the people around him. Eakins was a ‘colorful’ character for all of his 71 years, and he possessed a life-long passion for the human body as the ultimate art form. This information from Wikipedia sums up his work and his philosophy as a teacher:
He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; individually, they are incisive depictions of thinking persons.
He believed that women should "assume professional privileges" as would men. Life classes and dissection were segregated but women had access to male models (who were nude but for loincloths).
Controversy shaped much of his career as a teacher and as an artist. He insisted on teaching men and women "the same", used nude male models in female classes and vice versa…
|"Home Ranch" - Thomas Eakins - I often used this painting as a creative writing prompt when I taught writing classes.|
|"Four-in-Hand - May Morning in the Park" - Thomas Eakins|
|"Cowboys in the Badlands" - Thomas Eakins|
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art a few years ago and view the Thomas Eakins exhibit. (yes, THAT museum with the “Rocky” stairs) So for fun, here’s a picture of me and Rocky.
|Kaye Spencer with the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2009)|
For more information about Thomas Eakins, I would direct you to the website devoted to his life and works — http://www.thomaseakins.org/ — and to this book, The Revenge of Thomas Eakins by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick.
Until next time,
Twitter - @kayespencer
Note: The images included in this post are in the Public Domain and can be found through the Google Art Project, which is an “online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks housed in the initiative's partner museums.” Some images are Kaye’s that she took while visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art in June 2009.