The Brush and Camera of Thomas Eakins


Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), the great realist painter, photographer, sculptor, and instructor, is closely associated with Philadelphia. But he also spent time in New Jersey, using his brush and camera to record activities he enjoyed in its marshlands, as well as the rigorous labor undertaken by its shad fishermen.

The circle of male students around Eakins included Edward Boulton of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, who later received a group of photographic prints and oil studies from Eakins and his wife, Susan. Now Boulton’s descendants have loaned these treasures to the John F. Peto Studio Museum, where curator Harry Bower has partnered with Roy Pedersen of Pedersen Galleries (Lambertville, New Jersey) to organize the first presentation anywhere about Eakins’s New Jersey works.

Particularly fascinating are the juxtapositions of Eakins’s photographs and paintings, as suggested by the pair illustrated here.

Eakins’s "Hauling the Net," Gloucester, 1881, photograph with drawing
Eakins’s “Hauling the Net,” Gloucester, 1881, photograph with drawing

The museum is an ideal venue for this project as it was the home of Eakins’s near-contemporary John Frederick Peto (1854–1907), the renowned painter of trompe l’oeil still lifes. Adorned with Peto’s artworks and original furnishings, it stands in the historic center of Island Heights.

Thomas Eakins in New Jersey
John F. Peto Studio Museum
Island Heights, New Jersey
Through June 27, 2021

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