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Subseries 5.1 | A Finding Aid to the Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942 | Digitized Collection

Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942

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5.1: Photographs by Circle of Thomas Anshutz and Thomas Eakins, circa 1880-1886

This group of 66 vintage prints includes photographic figure studies, both clothed and nude, in classroom and outdoor settings; individual portraits; class portraits from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; informal photographs of students in the classroom; staged scenes of groups outdoors; and photographs of works of art. Among those pictured are Thomas Anshutz, Thomas Eakins, Eadweard Muybridge, William H. MacDowell, Susan MacDowell (later Eakins), and J. Laurie Wallace.
The photographs in this series are attributed to the Circle of Anshutz and Eakins from the period when the two worked together at the Pennsylvania Academy and the University of Pennsylvania, between 1880, when Eakins first acquired a camera, and 1886, when Eakins was dismissed from the Academy and presumably ceased contact with Anshutz. Although the prints bear no information regarding who took them or when, many of these photographs are known to have been taken by someone in Eakins' circle because duplicate images or close variants exist in other collections associated with Eakins. The most notable of these collections is the Charles Bregler collection, which consists of papers rescued from Eakins' studio in 1938 by Charles Bregler, friend of Susan MacDowell Eakins, and acquired from Bregler's widow by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1985. Other photographs have been attributed and dated to that period based on their content, such as the portraits of Susan MacDowell, who was a student at the Academy until 1882.
Some of the sessions and excursions represented in this series are well-known in the literature on Eakins, particularly the outdoor nudes and the figure studies of models in classical dress. In some cases, published sources have credited Eakins as the photographer, even of photographs in which he appears. Others have noted that students, assistants, and teacher alike served as both models and photographers. Given this atmosphere of collaboration, and in the absence of any identifying marks, it is nearly impossible to attribute these photographs to a specific photographer. While it is likely that Eakins took some of these photographs, it is equally likely that Anshutz took some as well, especially considering the collection's provenance. Anshutz may also have printed photographs that he did not take and kept the prints among his papers. Students known to have taken photographs at PAFA during this period, who may also have taken photographs in this series, include John Laurie Wallace and Covington Few Seiss. Susan MacDowell was also a photographer at that time and could conceivably have assumed that role in her classes.
The photograph of William H. MacDowell, Eakins' father-in-law, is attributed to Eakins in several published sources, and this attribution is maintained here. A print of Eakins' painting The Gross Clinic may have been made from a negative taken circa 1875-1876, when Eakins is said to have used the photograph to introduce his painting to the public.
Additional photographs taken during this period may also be among the Unattributed Photographs.

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.