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Study of a Seated Nude Woman Wearing a Mask

Thomas Eakins, American, 1844 - 1916

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Charcoal and crayon with stumping on paper

Sheet (irregular): 24 5/16 × 18 3/8 inches (61.8 × 46.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Thomas Eakins and Miss Mary Adeline Williams, 1929

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The harsh lighting and bare environment in this image tell us that this study probably was made in an evening life class at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts about 1863-66. One of the most famous American drawings of the nineteenth century, it demonstrates the artist's ability to suggest volume, weight, and particularity in bold strokes. In this period, models were offered masks to wear if they wished to remain anonymous.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This masked female nude is the best known of the few surviving figure studies drawn from life by Thomas Eakins, the premier Realist painter of the United States, who spent virtually his entire career in Philadelphia, where his primary subjects were the life and people around him. A gifted teacher, Eakins stressed that the study of art should be based on the figure as drawn--or better yet, painted--from life, not from casts of antique sculptures, which was then the standard practice; his disregard of contemporary taboos against use of the nude model in mixed-sex classes (which explains the concealed identity of this sitter) led to repeated conflicts with the schools where he taught. Eakins combined in his work his profound artistic and scientific interests, insisting on developing compositions through calculated measurements and perspective studies and on becoming familiar with the human body through intense anatomical study, dissection, and modeling. In this nude study, the rough, blocky massing of solid, lit, and shadowed forms reflects his emphasis on the essential construction of the human figure rather than details of pose or anatomy. Ann Percy, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 228.