Born in Philadelphia, Thomas Eakins was a portrait and genre painter whom many regard as the father of modern realism in American Art. Embodying many of the ideals of advances in science, industry, and technology of his time, he was an avid student of science and anatomy, resulting in collisions with the moral boundaries of the Victorian era. In his quest for anatomical accuracy in his work, Eakins was a pioneer in his use of photography in art making, and established a tradition of portraiture that was distinctly American, his knowledge of the human body allowing him to create a sense of naturalism in his artwork.
From 1866 to 1869, he was at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris as a student of historical painter, Jean Leon Gerome. In Gerome’s version of academic painting, tone came first, and mastery of gradations of black and white were essential. Gerome was fanatic about drawing in preparation to painting, but Eakins later developed his own approach to preparatory drawings, purchasing a camera in 1880, a tool that became central to much of his art.