Thomas Eakins' An Actress (Portrait of Suzanne Santje), is currently on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
(PAFA) where it has replaced Eakins' The Concert Singer.
Both paintings are on loan to PAFA from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), replacing Eakins' The Gross Clinic, which is jointly owned by PAFA and the PMA. Per a purchase agreement, The Gross Clinic alternates on an equal basis between the two institutions, and the PMA is to lend PAFA a significant work by Eakins whenever The Gross Clinic is not on view there.
Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) was a student at PAFA from 1862-1865 and a member of the faculty from 1876-1886.
The subject of Eakins' An Actress (Portrait of Suzanne Santje) is a Philadelphia-born actress who studied music in Berlin and drama in Paris. Eakins shows her not on stage performing but during a private moment of reverie, dressed in a vibrant gown and surrounded by objects, including a script of the romantic drama Camille and a portrait of her father, Charles Shearer Keyser. This portrait, infused with melancholy and rich with psychological ambiguity, is part of a group of modern paintings of eminent Philadelphians that Eakins painted in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The chair displayed in the painting is now in PAFA's collection, and is the same chair that appears in nearly a dozen of Eakins' paintings throughout his career.
Two works by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), who was a student at the Academy in 1860, now hang in the same gallery adjacent to An Actress. On view are Cassatt's Bacchante and Young Thomas and His Mother.
Bacchante was painted in 1872 for exhibition at the Esposizione di belle arti in Milan. This early work shows the influence of the young Mary Cassatt's extended European tour between 1871 and 1874. After a year and a half spent back in Philadelphia, Cassatt returned to Europe, visiting Rome, Madrid, Seville, Antwerp, and Parma. The choice of subject matter-a celebrant in Dionysian rituals swept up in the moment-testifies to Cassatt's interest in classical culture. Bacchante also reveals the influence of the Italian Renaissance painter Correggio, whose works Cassatt had been commissioned to copy by the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh. The Bacchante's pose echoes a figure of the Madonna by Correggio and was painted in his native region. The painting's warm tonality further evokes Spanish Baroque art, which Cassatt and her contemporaries such as Thomas Eakins and Edouard Manet were rediscovering in large numbers during the second half of the nineteenth century.
In the 1880s, Cassatt began to depict intimate scenes of mothers and children. Young Thomas and His Mother (ca. 1893) is one of several pastels to feature these particular models. This touching but unsentimental scene shows the qualities that earned Cassatt the respect of her peers. Daringly cropped in a manner that contributes to its immediacy, the portrait oscillates between closely observed naturalism and sketchy, abstracted passages showing her mark-making and process.
These two works by Cassatt are part of PAFA's permanent collection. Also from the Academy's collection, the gallery features paintings by renowned late-nineteenth century artists Cecilia Beaux, William Merritt Chase, and John Singer Sargent.
Comments PAFA's Curator of Historical American Art Anna Marley, "This intimate installation of portraits by luminary American artists from the late-nineteenth century gives visitors to PAFA a unique opportunity to view these works in the spectacular setting of PAFA's Historic Landmark building, seeing the works much as they might have been seen in the years that they were created."