Thomas Eakins (1844–1916)

Portrait of Thomas J. Eagan, 1907

Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in. (61.0 x 50.8 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 1998.1

A master of American realism, Thomas Eakins painted many penetrating portraits and scenes of everyday life in Philadelphia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He was especially drawn to subjects that showcased well-honed skills and intellectual pursuits. Portrait of Thomas J. Eagan is typical of Eakins’s late portraits in its compositional simplicity and sympathetic scrutiny of a sitter drawn from the artist’s immediate circle. Often setting his subject against a dark, nondescript background, Eakins dramatized the face with strong, harsh lighting. Originally Eakins’s student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Eagan left the academy in protest when Eakins was dismissed in 1886 for using a nude male model in a mixed-gender class. Eagan helped found the Art Students League of Philadelphia and participated in Eakins’s photography sessions. The portrait, which Eakins inscribed “to his friend and pupil,” reflects the artist’s professional and personal regard for his subject.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.