The trouble with trying to place a strict definition on "Realism" is that such a definition requires certain assumptions about the concept of perception. The ways in which a culture of one period perceives the world around it can be quite different from the forms of perception of other periods and other cultures. Late twentieth century America has a perception of the realism of late nineteenth century America that could be quite different from the perception of those living and participating in the Gilded Age.
Alan Trachtenberg touts Thomas Eakins as of one the two most prominent realists, along with Winslow Homer. The purpose of this project is to examine Eakins' work in order to place certain parameters on Eakins' perception of himself as an artist and to relate that perception to a larger understanding of realism. The project is divided thematically based on the variety of topics engaged by Eakins' art.

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