Long considered one of the most important artists in American art history, painter Thomas Eakins would use modern technologies and information to forward his theories and techniques in art. He was one of the first painters to use photographs to capture his subjects before rendering them in oil, and he took many anatomy and medical courses in order to understand the human form accurately.
He loved to paint nude or partially clad figures in motion, especially in outdoor settings where the light upon the skin gave tremendous depth to an image. He was one of the first Americans accepted to Paris' prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts and under Jean Leon Gerome and Leon Bonnat his enthusiasm towards Realism and anatomical accuracy was encouraged.
In addition to his artistic endeavors, his work as a teacher formed a considerable portion of his life, and brought him a similar amount of controversy, as many of his paintings would. In fact, his first exhibited work "Max Schmitt in a Single Scull", though masterful in design and execution was considered a shock for its contemporary subject matter.
As a teacher his methods were controversial, he did not follow standard curriculums, and introduced his students almost immediately into painting rather than a lengthy course of sketching. His own comfort with nudity and gender lines allowed him to behave in a manner considered "immoral" or unseemly, and after removing the loincloth from a male model he was forced to resign his position at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Though many of his students resigned in protest, forming the Art Students League of Philadelphia, he would teach in other cities only until 1898.
Eakins produced many portraits, figure scenes, photographs and even sculptures in his life. His works are in the most important art and museum collections in the world, and continue to set some of the highest auction prices.