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The Revenge of Thomas Eakins (Henry Mcbride Series in Modernism and Modernity) Paperback – February 28, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Henry Mcbride Series in Modernism and Modernity
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (February 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300136449
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,747,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Biographer Kirkpatrick brings the cinematic clarity of a documentary filmmaker to this portrait of Thomas Eakins, the controversial Philadelphia portrait artist whose "failure to abide by the artistic trends that defined his times" resulted in work that was richly interesting and highly controversial. Kirkpatrick takes considerable pains to portray the contradictory philosophical moorings and childlike prurience that marked Eakins's eccentric career. Prior to Eakins's resignation from the Pennsylvania Academy amid muddied allegations of impropriety, his students held him-and the capital "E" he would place on canvases in which he saw marked improvement-in great esteem. And though he was a pioneer in the use of photography and a champion of nude modeling (he was "starved for the nude," as one woman who knew him put it), Eakins's stubborn social gracelessness and proclivity for intrigue made his place in the Philadelphia art world "something like that of a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter." Kirkpatrick's ability to suggest, through the use of letters and family anecdotes, that Eakins was aware of-and to a degree, fostered-the Byronic attitude (drafting his own obituary, Eakins wrote, "My honors are misunderstanding, persecution, & neglect, enhanced because unsought") that characterized his career is both brilliant and subtle. But most importantly, Kirkpatrick gives Eakins convincing depth that reminds readers of the ways biography can enhance appreciation of art.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'... a posthumous, too-long-delayed and entirely deserved critical rehabilitation.' William Packer, Literary Review 'Kirkpatrick presents the most complete biography of Eakins yet published.' Elizabeth Johns, The Art Newspaper 'Kirkpatrick's full-scale biography is well-researched and fluently written. It is particularly strong in its descriptions of the inner workings that were so important to Eakins's life, the Pennsylvania Academy in particular.' Christopher Benfey, New York Review of Books"

More About the Author

Sidney D. Kirkpatrick is an award-winning filmmaker and international best-selling author. His critically acclaimed non-fiction books include A CAST OF KILLERS, TURNING THE TIDE, LORDS OF SIPAN, EDGAR CAYCE: AN AMERICAN PROPHET, THE REVENGE OF THOMAS EAKINS, and HITLER'S HOLY RELICS. His documentary film, MY FATHER THE PRESIDENT, about Theodore Roosevelt as seen through the eyes of his daughter, Ethel Roosevelt Derby, was a winner at the American Film Festival. HBO, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and the A & E Television Networks have all featured his work. Biographical profiles of Kirkpatrick have appeared in The New York Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and Playboy. He is a graduate of Hampshire College and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He lives in Ontario, Canada and Pasadena, Ca.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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This is a very readable book.
Loves the View
They combine impeccable scholarship with elegant style and profound insight.
The book is generously and beautifully illustrated.
Avid reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dan on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of Sidney Kirkpatrick's writing.

In previous efforts that I've read he has revealed (usually having in fact discovered) amazing true drama from the lives of little known individual heroes in the middle of well-known enormous events; the story of an archeologist who happened upon the largest Pre-Columbian Peruvian art discovery, the story of a disenfranchised marine biologist who took on one of the largest drug dealers in the 1980's cocaine traffic trade, the story of a 75 year old film director who tried to resurrect his career by solving Hollywood's most famous unsolved murder, as well as an amazing biography of the Michael Jordan of psychics- Edgar Cayce. Kirkpatrick has a knack for identifying and tackling great drama and he writes it beautifully to boot.

I knew of Thomas Eakins from his paintings of rowers on the Schuykill. From Kirkpatrick I was more properly introduced to Eakins and learned that he was a fiercely independent genius who was castigated, disgraced and impoverished.

The Revenge of Thomas Eakins is an apt title. Eakins was just far too ahead of his time.

Kirkpatrick's effortless style and attention to detail really drops you right into the mid to late 1800's, comfortably sharing the historical context along with development of Eakins.

I recommend you read this one right away.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Avid reader on June 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this well-written, balanced biography of Thomas Eakins. It would be a perfect choice for readers with any level of familiarity with Eakins' paintings. I agree with the other reviewers that the book does an excellent job of placing Eakins' work in its historical context. Eakins emerges as a fascinating personality, and a guy who would have been great to know. In my opinion, Kirkpatrick deals honestly with the controversial aspects of Eakins' character, but without dwelling on them ad nauseum.

I thought that the descriptions of the paintings themselves were especially effective. The book communicated exactly the information I wanted to read about for paintings like The Gross Clinic and Max Schmitt in a Single Scull: the main points of the design, the background and tecnhical details, the dramatic impact, and the pyschological levels. I have read very few biographies of artists that were this helpful.

The book is generously and beautifully illustrated. There are 42 color plates, and each of those paintings is described in detail in the text. There are also a number of drawings, sketches, maps, and photographs (some taken by Eakins, and others of Eakins and his family and friends). The photos in particular (such as the one of Eakins, himself nude, carrying a nude female toward the camera) underscore the independent and controversial aspects of Eakins' character.

This was a very enjoyable read, and a tribute to a great artist.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Berner on December 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A common myth of all poor starving artists is that they will be discovered after they're dead and be venerated forever. In an age when you can get rich and famous by glueing broken crockery to canvas or stuffing a dead fish into a tank of formaldehyde, it is usually a case of a poor choice of publicists than undiscovered talent and the real loser is the poor fool who buys contemporary art for a high price only to watch the value crash when the artist moves on and his work starts to fall apart or rot.

But there was a time when truly great artists did suffer. We all know about Van Gogh, but Thomas Eakins was also a classic example. Everyone loves his sports pictures and his two group portraits of heroic doctors lecturing their students (the Gross Clinic and the Agnew Clinic) even make a Christian Scientist envy those who have chosen the medical profession.

But for my money, his portraits stake the primary claim to Eakins' greatness. His sitters usually refused to accept their portraits, some destroyed them, others refused to sit at all (Mr. Kirkpatrick quotes one lifelong friend of Eakins who always refused to sit for him because he was afraid that Eakins would uncover what he had spent his lifetime trying to conceal).

And I'd imagine that viewing your Eakins-painted portrait for the first time must have been an eerie, almost supernatural event. Looking at his splendid portraits today, you KNOW the subjects, their hardships and triumphs, their hopes and fears. These are not prettified and bowdlerized pictures to hang on a wall, these are the real thing. It is as if Eakins stripped away the skin of his sitters to reveal the pure psyche underneath. They are beautiful and informative and moving.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on December 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I picked up this very well done bio the little I knew about Eakins was the wonderful scull portraits, the shad fishing pictures and that a vague scandal surrounded his name. Now having read almost 500 pages, I want to know even more and there is a lot more to know.

Kirkpatrick covers the whole life, giving balance to each stage. It is a full book. There is no "filler". The research and background knowledge of the author shine forth on every page. The author shows great restraint in sticking to the known facts, otherwise this would be a 1000+ page book!

For instance, Eakins' fixation with the body, down to using mechanical contraptions on dead animals to demonstrate movement to students is factually presented. It is not sensationalized or psychoanalyzed. Similarly, whether Eakins was oblivious to or had discounted the consequences of asking so many females (again and again) to pose nude in this Victorian age is not discussed. The known instances of these invitations and the resulting alienation of those who said no, and the alienation of the friends and families of those that said yes are covered. With this background we learn the known facts of the tragedy of his niece Ella, and student Lillian, and about accusations regarding his sister Margaret. There are some documented opinions of family members, but the author stays with the known record.

No wonder, the self portrait that adorns the cover shows a tortured man with barely restrained sadness and anger.

It's ironic that the lack of appreciation for Eakin's works served to maintain the integrity of the collection for future generations.
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