Label Text: Thomas Eakins is regarded as one of the foremost American painters of the 19th century. Deeply interested in Realism and the accurate representation of the natural world, Eakins studied anatomy as well as fine arts in order to better depict the human form. His earlier work is characterized by this fascination, and he received a great deal of criticism for his unblinking attention to the realities of the body.
In the later part of his life, Eakins turned to portraiture, and brought to this genre the same absolute insistence on anatomical accuracy. His portraits employ none of the flattery, exaggeration, or visual trickery common in portraiture of the time, but instead embody a deeply personal, truthful representation of the subject. This work was a gift to its subject, Ernest Lee Parker, who was a curator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Eakins was both a student and teacher. Although the portrait is imbued with a deep stillness, Parker's intelligence, honesty, and studiousness are readily apparent.