Thomas Eakins (artist)|
American, 1844 - 1916
Archbishop Diomede Falconio, 1905
oil on canvas
overall: 183.2 x 137.7 cm (72 1/8 x 54 3/16 in.) framed: 204.5 x 159.4 x 6 cm (80 1/2 x 62 3/4 x 2 3/8 in.)
Gift of Stephen C. Clark
Object 4 of 8
The poet Walt Whitman declared, “Eakins is not a painter, he is a force.” Indeed, the uncompromising honesty in Eakins’ portraits was thought too crude for social propriety. As one Philadelphia gentleman joked, Eakins “would bring out all the traits of my character that I had been trying to hide from the public for years.”
A few doctors, professors, and other intellectuals did appreciate his penetrating analyses. The full-length Archbishop Diomede Falconio is among fourteen portraits Eakins created of Roman Catholic clergy. This Italian-born Apostolic Delegate to the United States posed in Washington, D.C., where he resided at the Catholic University of America. As a poor Franciscan friar, he normally shunned the impressive gray silk robes that he wears here. For unknown reasons, the canvas is unfinished. The face and hands appear completed, but the vestments, chair, carpet, and wall paneling have not received their final details.
The church scholar, at age sixty-three, was only two years older than the painter; even so, Eakins rudely called Falconio “the old man.” Eakins’ manners were blunt, and his art seldom flattered. Among the National Gallery’s other candid, late portraits by Eakins are Louis Husson, which the artist inscribed as a gift to his friend, a French-born photographer, and equally frank likenesses of Husson’s wife and niece.
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