An American realist painter, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important American artists.
For the length of his professional career, from the early 1870s until his health began to fail some 40 years later, Eakins worked exactingly from life, choosing as his subject the people of his hometown of Philadelphia. He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of contemporary Philadelphia of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Eakins was a controversial figure whose work received little recognition during his lifetime. Since his death, he has been celebrated by American art historians as "the strongest, most profound realist in 19th and early 20th-century American art".