Closing Perspective: A Montage


Eakins' paintings were largely experiments in the powers of perception. John Berger, in his analysis of perception, Ways of Seeing, states, "It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled." These essays have attempted to place parameters on Thomas Eakins perception of his own art, and of realism. What follows now, in this closing perspective, is a brief montage of Eakins' paintings and a few quotes from or about Eakins. In scanning this montage, consider other perspectives of Eakins' work that have not been covered here, perspectives on realism, perspectives on art, perspectives on reality:




Eakins: "The big artist does not sit down monkey like & copy a coal scuttle or an ugly old woman like some Dutch painters have done nor a dungpile, but he keeps a sharp eye on Nature and steals her tools. He learns what she does with light the big tool & then color then form and appropriates them to his own use."
Eakins: "I love sunlight & children & beautiful women & men their heads & hands & most everything I see & someday I expect to paint them as I see them and even paint some that I remember or imagine from old memories of love & light & warmth."
Eakins: "With this the canoe [the artist] can sail parallel to Nature's sailing. He will soon be sailing only where he wants to selecting nice little coves & shady shores or storms to his own liking, but if ever he thinks he can sail another fashion from Nature or make a better shaped boat he'll capsize."
New York Herald, on Eakins: "decidedly photographic."
Billy Smith: "You want to know something about Mr. Eakins, and the picture. First, as Mr. Eakins would say, when asked to speak of himself, My all is in my work. But, what I know. It was 1898, when Mr. Eakins came to a Boxing Club, to get a modle for his first fight picture, titled, Between rounds. He choose me... I was known then as Turkey Point Billy Smith."
Eakins: "If a man makes a hot day he makes it like a hot day he once saw or is seeing if a sweet face a face he once saw or which he imagines from old memories or parts of memories & his knowledge & he combines & combines never creates but at the very first combination no man & less of all himself could ever disentangle the feelings that animated him just then & refer each one to its right place."