Thursday, April 09, 2009


Thomas Eakins 1844-1916
The Crucifixion, 1880.
Oil on canvas. 243.8 x 137.2 cm (96 x 54 in.).
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Eakins was inspired by Velázquez’s Crucifixion (1632) now in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Eakins hung this huge work in the hall of his house. It was the first thing visitors saw when they entered.

This was Eakins's only religious work. However he did return to the subject of The Crucifixion later as there are studies for a Crucifixion done about 1888.

It depicts Christ in his last moments on the Cross.

One of his art students (J. Laurie Wallace) posed for the figure of Christ, strapped onto a cross outside. The sagging weight and exhaustion derive from an actual observation.

It is a powerful and dramatic work and lacks sentiment. It is entirely realistic.

The cringed and clawing hands, the anatomical details, the dirty feet and nails that have seen the dust of the road, were bitterly criticised at the time as “unreligious.”

Note the ugliness and agitation of the Greek and Latin scrawl above the head of Christ.