Image: 9 x 11.2 cm (3 9/16 x 4 7/16 in.); Paper: 9.1 x 11.3 cm (3 9/16 x 4 7/16 in.); Matted: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 2002.49
Thomas Eakins's awareness of photography as a visual aid for painters preceded his own interest in making photographs, which began in the early 1880s. He fully expressed his pioneering, personal, and aesthetic style of photography in this rare image of two young boys in an outdoor setting. Here, Eakins positioned his nephews against a muscular tree trunk, which asymmetrically divides the composition. He made the short exposure in diffuse outdoor lighting, a condition he favored. Soft shadows allowed for a subtle rendering of the ordinary scene, marked by casual posture, dress, and setting. An early practitioner of the platinum process, Eakins was instinctively drawn to its slight gradations and gentle continuities of tone. Broad areas of light and shade allowed him to ignore specific details in order to render the universal qualities he discovered through close observation of his chosen subject matter.
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