Exhibit Uncovers NJ’s Influence on Artist Thomas Eakins

"Thomas Eakins in New Jersey” runs through June 27 at the John F. Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights.

thomas eakins
At the Peto Museum exhibit, Thomas Eakins’s sketches can be seen in the margins of this photograph, Pulling the Seine. Photo by R.C. Staab

Covered with dust and dirt after a trip by ferry and horseback from Philadelphia to his family’s place on the Cohansey River, a young Thomas Eakins would invariably rip off his clothes and jump into the water. Even after being acknowledged as one of America’s greatest painters and art teachers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Eakins continued his athletic and artistic pursuits in New Jersey well into his 70s.

Eakins sought inspiration at his family’s boathouse, along nearby riverbanks and at the Jersey Shore. For the first time, New Jersey’s influence on the Philadelphia native is being documented in an exhibition, “Thomas Eakins in New Jersey,” starting May 1 at the John F. Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights.

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Showcasing a dozen never-before-seen photographs, plus sculptures and paintings, the exhibition focuses on Eakins and a group of students and colleagues who were devoted to him, particularly after his dismissal from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 

The exhibition shows how Eakins, Edward Boulton, Charles Bregler (of Asbury Park) and others experimented with photography along the Delaware River and in Point Pleasant. Most of the prints and original plates stayed for generations in the Boulton family, and with Bregler, who literally scooped photos off the floor of Eakins’s home after the artist’s death in 1916.  

The exhibition runs through June 27. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free for children 12 and under.

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