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The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. KentonArtist / Origin: thomas Eakins (American, 1844–1916)Region: north AmericaDate: 1900Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CEMaterial: Oil top top canvasMedium: PaintingDimensions: H: 82 in. (208.3 cm.), W: 42 in. (106.7 cm.)Location: The urban Museum of Art, new York, NYCredit: Courtesy of the urban Museum that Art, man Stewart Kennedy Fund


Thomas Eakins to be a prominent Philadelphia painter, classically trained at The Pennsylvania Academy the the good Arts, where he later taught, and also at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

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Having studied person anatomy closely, the was particularly adept at figural work. Eakins painted plenty of portraits both that his immediate circle and also of notable doctors, scientists, artists, and also other differentiated individuals. In these, the artist shied far from the pristine and idealized characteristics characterizing the culture portraits the his day. Instead, he created images showing a more facility and periodically grittier reality—the dark and moody portrait of miss out on Amelia valve Buren (ca. 1891, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.), for example, or the famously unprettified portrait that Dr. Samuel gun overseeing an procedure at his clinic (1875, Philadelphia Museum of Art).

Eakins’s reality depictions were not always flattering. Indeed, some of his subjects were unhappy v their portraits and refused to accept them. In the case of The pistol Clinic, the arts jury at Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial exhibition uncovered the work-related so shockingly graphic the it was ultimately relegated come the fair’s clinical exhibit. Portrait commissions were rare for Eakins. An ext often 보다 not, when he created a portrait, it was out of his own imaginative interest.

Eakins’s The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton stands out among the artist’s portraits for its too much simplicity. Kenton to be the artist’s brother-in-law, and the details of his profession have actually been lost to history. In this composition, Kenton stands prior to a stark, irradiate background in an empty room. The room is only barely argued by the edge of the baseboard and the subject’s zero on the floor. Kenton wears an ill-fitting black color suit, the hazy contours of which contrast with delicately rendered details that encompass a flowered necktie, a clock chain, and also creases of age in the sitter’s face. His casual posture is odd for a formal, full-length portrait.

In Eakins’s portrait, us see picture that is less about the exterior we have the right to see than the inner we can’t. Kenton seems lost in thought. His head is bowed and also his expression inscrutable. Eakins provides his isolation ~ above the canvas to suggest an introspective character. The artist included The Thinker in plenty of exhibitions throughout the years complying with its execution, arguing that that was particularly proud of it. Critics, too, reviewed the painting favorably, perhaps due to the fact that it read in many ways not so much as a portrait likeness, but as one allegory for the state of humankind on the brink of a modern age.


“Eakins to be attracted come what he observed as the complete honesty and integrity the the old grasp portraitists come sear right into the consciousness of the world they to be portraying. In this portrait the Louis Kenton, that was Eakins’ brother-in-law, he shows a youngish middle-aged guy with cable rimmed glasses looking down at his shadow, and also he has actually his hands plunged into his pockets and also his shoulders are sagging. And also it’s picture of weight, that gravity. It’s practically suggested the this man’s mind is together rumpled as his clothing, and also so yes a emotion of this is a human who has actually really lived. Eakins’ contemporary, man Singer Sargent to be brilliant at making people look much an ext elegant 보다 they to be in actual life, much an ext relaxed and soigné 보다 they to be in real life. Eakins was the opposite. He made everyone look older, more rumpled, an ext worn and torn under by life than they in reality were or at least as they appeared to the rest of the world. So, needless come say, Sargent to be a very wealthy successful portraitist and Eakins to be not.

In the Louis Kenton, ns would also say that even his glasses, instead of see his eyes with them you almost feel prefer his eyes space bouncing back into his head. This portrait is generally known as The Thinker because appropriate away that was recognized as this wonderful image of solitude and of introspection, and Eakins has actually done whatever within this picture to have this feeling of this hermetically sealed separation, personal, instance who’s no looking out to the world. Your hands space a method of contacting the world, yet Louis has his hand deep in his pockets, for this reason he is just in contact with himself, and also his mind.”


Berger, young name A. Man Made: cutting board Eakins and also the building of Gilded period Manhood. Berkeley and also Los Angeles: college of California Press, 2000.

Braddock, Alan C. Thomas Eakins and the cultures of Modernity. Berkeley and Los Angeles: college of California Press, 2009.

Griffin, Randall C. Homer, Eakins, and Anshutz: The search for American identification in the Gilded Age. State College: Pennsylvania State university Press, 2004.

Kirkpatrick, Sidney. The Revenge of thomas Eakins. New Haven: Yale college Press, 2006.

Lubin, David M. “Modern emotional Selfhood.” In Inventing the Psychological: toward a social History of emotional Life in America, edited by Joel Pfister and also Nancy Schnog, 142–145. Brand-new Haven: Yale university Press, 1997.

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“Thomas Eakins: The Thinker: Portrait that Louis N. Kenton (17.172).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of art History. The urban Museum of Art internet site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eapa/ho_17.172.htm (October 2006).