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Male Students Posing at the Art Students' League of Phildelphia (Three figures posing with ladder)

CIRCLE OF THOMAS EAKINS (1844-1916) Male Students Posing at the Art Students' League of Phildelphia (Three figures posing with ladder) Albumen print. 1886. 7 3/8 x 4½in. (18.8 x 11.5cm.)
Charles Grafly, Jr.;
by descent to Dorothy Grafly Drummond;
to Charles Drummond;
to the present owner, 1981.

Lot Essay

The print offered in this and the following lot are duplicates of those which appear in the "Grafly Album" in the collection of the Clark Art Institute and currently on view in the travelling exhibition Thomas Eakins (see Christies, New York, Photographic Masterworks 2, 12 October, 2000, lot 5, pp. 21-23).

Although Thomas Eakins is best remembered as a painter, he had a long career as a teacher, first at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and, from 1886, at his newly-founded Art Students' League of Philadelphia. Eakins pioneered the use of photography to help achieve an accurate representation of the human form in his paintings.
That Eakins took the photographs himself in this case, is undetermined and, in some sense, irrelevant. Photography for Eakins and his 'circle' served purely as a study aid and could, accordingly, be a shared activity. The images here were taken by a 5 x 7 inch dry plate camera. Eakins, however, owned a 4 x 5 inch model, suggesting the photographs were taken by students, a supposition strengthened by the fact that the rather incongruous, clothed, standing figure in lot 5 bears a close physical resemblance to Eakins.

The works also feature George Reynolds (lot 4, standing, right and possibly also lot 5, seated, foreground), one of Eakins favorite models. Reynolds, a League "Curator", was the subject of many of Eakins' most celebrated paintings, such as The Veteran and The Swimming Hole, as well as his photographic motion studies.

The photographs have a distinguished pedigree, belonging first to Charles Grafly, Jr. (1862-1929), the sculptor and a former Eakins student, then, as part of a larger bequest which included the Grafly album (op. cit.), to his daughter Dorothy. On her death, her husband Charles Drummond gave the photographs to the present owner. They are now being sold to benefit the activities of the Charles Grafly Memorial Trust, for educational and curatorial activities.


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