Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, American painter (1844-1916), was born in Philadelphia, the first of four children. His father, Benjamin Eakins, was a writing master and calligrapher, which allowed him to support his family comfortably and to put Thomas through Central High School in Philadelphia. Eakins began taking courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1862. In 1866, Eakins went to Paris to study with painters Jean-Léon Gérôme and Léon Bonnat, and sculptor Augustin Alexandre Dumont. Eakins also spent six months in Spain.

In 1869, Eakins returned to Philadelphia where he resumed his studies at Jefferson Medical College, where he painted one of his most famous works, The Gross Clinic (1875). In 1878, Eakins began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1879, he was appointed professor of painting and drawing. Eakins married Susan Hannah Macdowell in 1884. Eakins was dismissed from his professorship due to a scandal surrounding his insistence on painting from a nude model. Eakins died in Philadelphia in 1916.

Eakins was almost unknown during his lifetime. He is known for his paintings of crew, notably Max Schmitt in a Single Scull, 1871, (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and The Biglen Brothers Racing 1873, (National Gallery of Art) and for his portraits. Eakins is regarded by many critics as one of the best American painters.

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