Thursday, May 26, 2011

Portraits. Miss Amelia Van Buren, Thomas Eakins(1891)



Miss Amelia Van Buren, Thomas Eakins ( 1891)

I chose this portrait by Thomas Eakins because I am interested in how women are portrayed and it was different to the other female portraits which show an often romanticised and unrealistic portrayal of the women in the portraits.

The woman in the Portrait was Amelia Van Buren ,who was one of Thomas Eakins art students and who was considered one of his most gifted students. Although a successful artist she became far more interested in photography, something that is thought to have stemmed from Eakings who himself had used photography extensively in his own artwork.

And she turned from painting to concentrate fully on working as a photographer.

It is believed she chose photography over painting as a more challenging art form but also because she would then be offered a better chance as being recognised as a female photographer than a female painter. It shows here then how gender roles and expectations played a significant part in the art world.

Eakins wanted to show Burens mental complexity and this is clearly shown with her looking thoughtfully into the light, her hand supporting her head. She was later diagnosed with Neurasthenia( An illness associated with fatigue,anxeity,headaches and depression)in 1886 she wrote to Eakins saying 'I have last discovered that the trouble with me is in my head it is exhausted by worry or something or other' And this can be clearly shown in this portrait with her greying pulled back and a strained look on her face. She is meant to be in her mid twenties yet looks far older most likely because of the worry and exhaustion she carried.

Eakins wanted to highlight her complex character and successfully does this by focusing is attention on her face and hands, her hands look tense yet relaxed and this was deliberately shown to represent her as a person.


I personally find this portrait far more interesting than other female portraits of the time as it shows a complexity to the subject that many others don't. By moving away from the romanticised, classic ideal, Eakins offers a fresh perspective of the female subject used.And that is why I chose it.

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