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The Biglin Brothers Racing, 1872

Thomas Eakins

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney

oil on canvas

Thomas Eakins was an avid proponent of American artists taking inspiration from American life to “peer deeper into the heart” of the national character. Though he studied and traveled extensively throughout Europe, upon his return, he set out to chronicle local subjects. He depicted accomplished Americans, including the leading sports figures of his native Philadelphia. The race shown in this painting was inspired by an actual event: the first pair-oared race in America. The two oarsmen, John and Bernard (Barney) Biglin from New York, appear in at least six other oils and watercolors by the artist, and in this race they took the gold.