John Biglin in a Single Scull
Thomas Eakins
John Biglin in a Single Scull
Thomas Eakins (American, Realism, 1844–1916): John Biglin in a Single Scull, 1874. Oil on canvas, 24-3/8 x 16 inches (61.9 x 40.6 cm). Whitney Collections of Sporting Art, Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



'Eakins's rowing paintings capture the particular moment when rowing's popularity in America was at its height as a sporting and social event. The craze had spread to the United States from England in the 1830s with the founding of boat clubs in New York and Philadelphia. The first college boat club was formed at Yale in 1843. Philadelphia-born Eakins brought to the theme his personal experiences as an amateur rower on the Schuylkill River as well as a scientific understanding of the muscles used in the physical effort. John Biglin dominated the sport as a single rower from the early 1860s to the early 1870s, and was described as a "physical specimen . . . about as near perfect as can be found." Eakins depicts him like a figure in relief, his body strongly modeled, his arms and shoulders sculptural in their roundness. From Biglin’s facial features to the slight wearing away of the wooden thole pin that acts as a fulcrum for the oar, every element is rendered with Eakins's characteristic attention to detail. The painting transforms Biglin’s status as a sports hero of his day into an icon of American athleticism.’ (© Yale University Art Gallery, artgallery.yale.edu)