The Writing Master

Artist: Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Date: 1882

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 30 x 34 1/4 in. (76.2 x 87 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1917

Accession Number: 17.173


Eakins probably had his first drawing lessons from his father, a professional calligrapher and teacher of penmanship at Friends’ Central School in Philadelphia. Here, Benjamin Eakins (1818–1899) is shown engaged in copying a document in an old-fashioned “copperplate” script. While the serious and affectionate portrayal of an aging craftsman is saturated with Rembrandtesque eloquence and nostalgia, Eakins’s delineation of his father’s head and hands reveals his skills of observation and description. Benjamin Eakins’s wise investments gave his son lifelong financial security.