It’s About an Old Man
Taking Up Rowing
It seemed like a good idea
twelve thirteen years ago.
It seems like a better one now.
There are worse places to start than with Thomas Eakins. He’s best known for his paintings of rowers c. 1870. The link goes to his painting of Max Schmitt on the Schuylkill River (then, as now, laced by bridges in downtown Philadelphia). The featured painting includes a selfie: that’s Mr. Eakins in the shell in the middle distance.
“A boat is the hardest thing I know of to put into perspective. It is so much like a human figure; there is something alive about it.”— Thomas Eakins, quoted by Brian Strauss, about whom more later
Eakins’s portraits of the Biglin brothers on the water are all over the net. After admiring those, look at the rest of his folio. The Metropolitan Museum’s collection of Eakins’s work consists mostly of his photography. Who knew? Try this catalog of the Met’s holdings and be sure to check out “Man on a ladder with a dissected horse leg.” That one doesn’t get a lot of reprints.
As for the piece of performance art where you have landed right now, first comes building the boat. Despite a century’s difference in materials and building techniques, the boat taking shape in the basement looks a good deal like Max Schmitt’s. Soon will come learning how not to drown while learning how to row. Progress of all sorts is detailed (sometimes, often, usually) tediously under “The News.” And if you’re just here to look at pictures, that’s what galleries are for. There’ll be better — more enjoyable — photos to come after the boat eventually hits the water.
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