Friday, April 15, 2011

Significant Moments: Central High School Graduate Fired Because He Exposed What People Wanted Hidden

“ . . . He had a number of enemies who made trouble for him and the committee . . .
Philadelphia Press, Prof. Eakins Resigns: Trouble in Life Class Of the Academy of the Fine Arts Leads to His Withdrawal.
          —that’s to say . . .
Franz Kafka, The Trial.
                   . . . Eissler and his colleagues . . .
Craig Seligman, Janet Malcolm.
                               —“the Fanatics,” he had called them—
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Final Days.
                                    . . . thought it best for the interests of . . .
Philadelphia Press, Prof. Eakins Resigns: Trouble in Life Class Of the Academy of theFine Arts Leads to His Withdrawal.
                                                  . . . the Freud Archives . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst.
                                                             . . . that he should resign.”
Philadelphia Press, Prof. Eakins Resigns: Trouble in Life Class Of the Academy of the Fine Arts Leads to His Withdrawal.


An uncompromising realist whose works and teachings inspired generations of artists, Thomas Eakins was born July 25, 1844, in Philadelphia. Eakins attended The Central High School of Philadelphia, which was known for its academic emphasis on science, and from 1862 to 1865 studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, also attending courses on anatomy at the Jefferson Medical College, for which he created one of his most celebrated works, The Gross Clinic (1875). In 1866, he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme. He traveled to Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain before returning to Philadelphia in 1870, establishing a studio at his family home.

In 1876, Eakins began to teach at the School of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was appointed professor of drawing and painting in 1879 and became director in 1882. Two years later he married one of his students, Susan Hannah MacDowell. Despite growing opposition to his methods, which included the use of nude models in his classes, Eakins continued to teach. After he was forced to resign in 1886, his student supporters retaliated by forming the Art Students League of Philadelphia (1886–93) with Eakins as their instructor. After this event, he concentrated on portraiture. His subjects were portrayed with the same unyielding attention to the fact of appearance and psychological presence that Eakins had demonstrated in his earlier scenes of athletes and figural compositions.

Due to his great knowledge of anatomy, Eakins became a portrait painter and specialized in rendering the male nude. He believed that the human figure was, “a miracle of muscle, bone and blood” and also said that, “[a female nude] is the most beautiful thing there is [in] the world except a naked man.” As an art and anatomy teacher, Eakins found it imperative to have fully-nude models of both male and female sexes—regardless of whether or not the classes were co-ed. This method was unprecedented and, in a co-ed anatomy lecture of February 1886, Eakins removed the loincloth from a male model.

The scandal caused an uprising among some students, many parents (most notably mothers), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the media, causing the compulsory resignation of Eakins from his position. Despite the strict rules and regulations that governed what was acceptable as artwork, Eakins continued to paint overly realistic, un-idealized, erotic, and confrontational male nudes.

Eakins continued to paint regularly until his health began to fail in 1911. He died June 25, 1916.


Gary Freedman said...

I graduated from Central High School in 1971 (230th class).

Gary Freedman said...

From Significant Moments:

In the meantime Ellsberg continued reading his documents and thinking about the "lessons of Vietnam," and concluded that the lies and deception were systematic, not just the aberrations of particular Presidents or the result of errors of judgment. The intelligence estimates, he concluded, despite his earlier feelings about inaccurate reporting from the field were "remarkably accurate." He had become privy to a new secret.

That ultimate secret seemed to have something to do with the nature of secrecy itself. He could verge on the rhapsodic when he spoke about what the possession of secrets could do to the possessor, about the safes within safes, the clearances above Top Secret, the secrets within secrets that he had discovered in the inner chambers of the Pentagon. People in Washington derived kicks from having access to information from those inner chambers, achieved a kind of euphoria from knowing things that were not known by others. He would later say that his own fascination with them might have some relation to a parallel fascination with pornography. For years he had collected pornography, and his apartment was full of the stuff. Now he also possessed the hardcore information about the war, the pornography of Vietnam. Was the language suggestive: disclosure, revelation, protection, penetration?
Peter Schrag, Test of Loyalty.

Gary Freedman said...

Gary Freedman said...

Eakins' painting: The Gross Clinic

Gary Freedman said...

Lecture on "The Gross Clinic"