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1890-91

The Concert Singer

Eakins's first full-length portrait of a woman presents the singer Weda Cook. Her chin is raised so she can project her voice; her mouth open, in mid-song. Of the nearly two dozen works of art Eakins devoted to the subject of music, this is his most ambitious treatment of the theme. Weda Cook posed for this picture off and on for nearly two years. At the beginning of each session, Eakins asked her to sing a portion of Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah, which begins "O rest in the Lord." If you look down, you can see that Eakins also carved the opening bars of this song into the frame. Eakins was so committed to accuracy that he asked a well-known Philadelphia conductor to pose holding the baton. But he also takes small liberties with reality by inserting a bouquet of pink roses on the stage. Flowers are ordinarily presented at the end of a concert, but here they lie on the stage as a permanent reminder of the public's recognition of the singer's talents.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of Mrs. Thomas Eakins and Miss Mary Adeline Williams, 1929