Published: January 2, 2007
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) announces the recent acquisition of Thomas Eakins’ large sporting painting, “Wrestlers,” 1899; it is the gift of Cecile C. Bartman and The Cecile and Fred Bartman Foundation. “Wrestlers” is one of the last major subject paintings that Thomas Eakins (1844–1916) created.
Viewed in the trajectory of Eakins’ accomplishments — from his first student studies of the figure and early rowing pictures of the 1870s to his late boxing and wrestling paintings — “Wrestlers” stands as a superb summation of some of the most significant themes of the artist’s career.
Bartman explained her gift: “LACMA has been a significant part of my life ever since I moved from Chicago, and the 18 years I served as a docent were quite enjoyable. I thought it was time to give something back to this great institution.”
Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, noted “that ‘Wrestlers’ is one of the most historically significant additions to the museum’s permanent collection, which already includes the preparatory sketch of this powerful painting.”
Eakins is considered one of the greatest realists of Nineteenth Century American painting; he focused primarily on the human figure. He was a determined materialist, and though he was a portrait painter of great psychological depth, his primary focus was the body, the human being embodied in his or her physical reality. He was also a beloved yet controversial academic teacher, proselytizing drawing from the live model and the study of anatomy.
He stands as the first American artist to base his art on the close and exacting analysis of the body, and is the fountainhead for a realist tradition which extends from him through Robert Henri and the Ashcan School to Reginald Marsh, Fairfield Porter, Philip Pearlstein and California artist David Park. Eakins’ deep conviction that the human is the central concern of painting, and that the human is composed indissolubly of mind and body, is what made him influential to his younger colleagues and later generations.
“Wrestlers” is Eakins’ last completed statement on the subject and is a testament to a lifetime of teaching, painting and struggling with the dilemmas of representing the body.
LACMA is at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard. For information, www.lacma.org or 323-857-6000.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm