Susan Macdowell Eakins

Susan Macdowell Eakins

Susan Hannah Macdowell Eakins (September 21, 1851 – December 27, 1938)[1] was an American artist and wife of Thomas Eakins.

Early life

She was the fifth of eight children of a Philadelphia engraver, well known in the artistic community. She was a student of Eakins while he was an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and married him in 1884.

She was 25 when she met Eakins at the Hazeltine Gallery where his painting The Gross Clinic was being exhibited in 1876. Unlike many, she was impressed by the controversial painting and she decided to study with him at the Academy, which she attended for six years, adopting a sober, realistic style similar to her teacher’s. She was an outstanding student and winner of the Mary Smith prize for the best painting by a matriculating woman artist. [2]


After their childless [3] marriage, she only painted sporadically and spent most of her time supporting her husband’s career, entertaining guests and students, and faithfully backing him in his difficult times with the Academy, even when some members of her family aligned against Eakins.

She and Eakins both shared a passion for photography, both as photographers and subjects, and employed it as a tool for their art. She also posed nude for many of his photos and took images of him. Both had separate studios in their home.

After his death in 1916, she returned to painting, adding considerably to her output right up to the 1930s, in a style that became warmer, looser, and brighter in tone.


She died in 1938. It was not until 35 years after her death, in 1973, that she had her first one-woman exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. [2]


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