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[Three Boys Wading in a Creek]

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In 1882, Thomas Eakins was promoted to the post of director of schools at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he became known as a charismatic and innovative teacher who advocated intensive study of the nude figure. Committed to teaching close observation through every means possible, Eakins turned his school into a laboratory of photographic experimentation. He and his students (male and female) made negatives of each other-in lithe repose or in action, nude or in costume. At times, Eakins must have realized that he was pushing the limits of Philadelphia decorum. This small 4 x 5 albumen silver print shows several of Eakins' nephews playing in a creek on the property of the artist's sister Frances and her husband, William J. Crowell. In the 1880s, Eakins spent much of his free time at the Crowell family home in Avondale, Pennsylvania, thirty miles southwest of Philadelphia. Distant from urban distractions, the idyllic farm soon became a refuge for him. The Crowell children delighted Eakins and he made many photographs of their spirited games.

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