Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Paths Untrodden



Calamus [In Paths Untrodden]
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

 In paths untrodden,
In the growth by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hitherto publish’d, from the
   pleasures, profits, conformities,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,
Clear to me now standards not yet publish’d, clear to me
   that my soul,
That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,
Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk’d to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash’d, (for in this secluded spot I can respond
   as I would not dare elsewhere,)
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet
   contains all the rest,
Resolv’d to sing no songs to-day but those of manly
   attachment,
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first
   year,
I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secret of my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.

Thomas Eakins' The Swimming Hole

Thomas Eakins made several on-site oil sketches and photographic studies before painting The Swimming Hole. It is unknown whether the photographs were taken before the oil sketches were produced or vice versa (or, indeed, whether they were created on the same day).

By the early 1880s, Eakins was using photography to explore sequential movement and as a reference for painting. Some time in 1883 or 1884, he photographed his students engaged in outdoor activities. Four photographs of his students swimming naked in Dove Lake have survived (one is at the top of this post), and bear a clear relationship to The Swimming Hole. The swimmers are seen in the same spot and from the same vantage point, although their positions are entirely different from those in the painting. None of the photographs closely matches the poses depicted in the painting; this was unusual for Eakins, who typically adhered closely to his photographic studies. "The divergence between these sets of images may hint at lost or destroyed pictures, or it may tell us that the photographs came first, before Eakins' mental image had crystallized, and before the execution of his first oil sketch." The poses in the photographs are more spontaneous, while those of the painting are deliberately composed with a classical "severity". Although no photographic studies have survived that would suggest a more direct connection between the photographs and the painting, recent scholarship has proposed that marks incised onto the canvas and later covered by paint indicate that Eakins made use of light-projected photographs

1 comment:

Damien Malachy said...

An interesting thing to learn! Thanks!