Van Gogh •
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In 1866, after studying antique casts at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then anatomy at the Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Eakins went
to Paris. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gérôme and Bonnat but, uninspired by both classical form and academic style, Eakins went to Spain to study the works of Velázquez and Ribera. Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1870, Eakins painted such great realistic paintings as "The Gross Clinic" and "The Agnew Clinic": extremely detailed and powerfully naturalistic works that combine the light and shade of Manet, the realism of Courbet, with the basic sympathy of Velázquez. He also painted portraits of his family and genre scenes of American life. As he grew older and found little appreciation for what he himself called "solid, heavy, work," and disheartened also by the loss of his position as a teacher at the Philadelphia Academy, he became more and more of a recluse -- though he did continue teaching anatomy at the National Academy of Design in New York, and he even won a few prizes.
From 1910 until his death in 1916, Eakins' health was failing, and he consequently painted very little. More interested in the scientific aspect of
life than in pure aesthetics, Eakins felt that mathematics and painting were similar to the extent that both of them reduced complicated ideas to simple ones. His greatest desire was for accuracy in both perspective and in the representation of the human body. The first he obtained by mechanical techniques and the second by close observation of the body in motion and in repose. He sought to show form at its most weighty, space as a mathematical concept, and color and light as more solid than ephemeral.