The Swimming Hole (1884-85) by Thomas Eakins

The Swimming Hole - Thomas Eakins - c.1883

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Swimming Hole
ArtistThomas Eakins
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions92.71 x 69.85 cm
Art MovementRealism
Current LocationAmon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, US

About The Swimming Hole

“The Swimming Hole,” an iconic work by Thomas Eakins, is an oil on canvas painting dating to circa 1883. Classified under the Realism art movement, it exemplifies the genre painting tradition with its lifelike depiction of a candid moment. The artwork measures approximately 92.71 by 69.85 cm and is currently housed at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, located in Fort Worth, Texas, United States.

The artwork captures a serene and intimate scene of a group of young men enjoying a leisurely swim in a natural body of water. It is a study of the male nude form in a naturalistic setting, away from the constraints of society. The composition features a foreground where two men recline on a rocky outcrop, one laying down and resting on his side while the other sits with a hand gently resting on the knee of the first. A third stands at the edge, with his back toward the viewer, poised as though he is about to dive. In the midground, we see figures in the act of swimming and diving, with a splash capturing the moment of entry for one of them. The background extends into a landscape that fades into the distance, with lush trees and grass-covered fields, underlining the pastoral and tranquil atmosphere of the setting.

Eakins’s attention to anatomical accuracy and the play of light on flesh and water showcases his mastery and contributes to the palpable sense of both motion and rest within the composition. The peacefulness of the scene is juxtaposed with the dynamic energy of the figures in motion, creating a harmonious balance. The depiction of the nude male form within a contemporary context, rather than classical or mythological, was considered bold for its time, highlighting Eakins’s commitment to honoring the realistic and truthful portrayal of the human experience.

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