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date: 04 March 2021

Eakins, Thomas Cowperthwaitlocked

(25 July 1844–25 June 1916)
  • Ellwood C. Parry


Eakins, Thomas Cowperthwait (25 July 1844–25 June 1916), artist and teacher, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Benjamin Eakins, a writing master, and Caroline Cowperthwait. As the eldest child and only son, he enjoyed many advantages compared with his three sisters, which may have colored his thinking about male physical and intellectual superiority for the rest of his life. A commitment to excellence in education, to staunchly independent thinking, and to vigorous outdoor exercise was stressed more than organized religion in the modest Eakins household. Because of his father’s profession, which involved inscribing formal documents and teaching penmanship, Eakins developed a remarkable proficiency with pencil or pen and ink on paper. From 1857 to 1861 Eakins attended Philadelphia’s Central High School, which took only the city’s ablest male students through a rigorous curriculum, including the arts and natural sciences as well as history, literature, and languages. A surviving series of mechanical drawings and perspective studies, meticulously rendered and carefully inscribed, demonstrates why Eakins excelled in all his drawing classes. When he graduated on 11 July 1861, the Civil War had just begun. But he never had to serve in the Union army, and hostilities were over before he turned twenty-one....

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