From Publishers Weekly
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.
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"'... 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"