Original Document
Original Document
Letter of Complaint on Eakin's Life Drawing Class, 1882

Dear Sir, . . . Would you be willing to take a young daughter of your own, into the Academy Life Class, to the study of the nude figure of a woman, whom you would shudder to have sit in your parlor clothed & converse with your daughter? Would you be willing to sit there with your daughter, or know she was sitting there with a dozen others, studying a nude figure, while the Professor walked around criticising that nudity, as to her roundness in this part, & swell of the muscles in another? That daughter at home had been shielded from every thought that might lead her young mind from the most rigid chastity. Her mother had never allowed her to see her young naked brothers, .hardly her sisters after their babyhood & yet at the age of eighteen, or nineteen, for the culture of high Art, she had entered a class where both male & female figures stood before in their horrid nakedness. This is no imaginary picture. . . . Do you wonder why so many art students are unbelievers even infidels? Why then is often so much looseness of morals among the young men? To them anything so effective in awakening licentiousness as this daily & nightly study of woman's nudity! Can't be helped! Can Christian men, members of the Church deliberately aid in demoralizing the young in this manner & not be guilty? . . . Now Mr. Claghorn, does this pay? Does it pay, for a young lady of a refined, godly household to be urged as the only way of obtaining a knowledge of true art, to enter a class where every feeling of maidenly delicacy is violated, where she becomes so hardened to indelicate sights & words, so familiar with the persons of degraded women & the sight of nude males, that no possible art can restore her lost treasure of chaste & delicate thoughts? There is no use in saying that she must look upon the study as she would that of a wooden figure! That is an utter impossihility. Living moving flesh & blood, is not, & cannot be studied thus. The stifling heat of the room, adds to the excitement, & what might be a cool unimpassioned study in a room at 35°, at 85° or even higher is dreadful. Then with all this dreadful exposure of body & mind not one in a dozen could make a respectable draped figure. Spending two years in life study of flesh color, that a decent artist would never need, & then have to begin over again for the draped figure. Where is the elevating enobling influence of the beautiful art of painting in these studies? The study of the beautiful in landscape & draped figures, & the exquisitely beautiful in the flowers that the Heavenly Father has decked & beautified the world with, is ignored, sneered at, & that only made the grand object of the Ambition of the student of Art, that carries unholy thought with it, that the Heavenly Father himself covers from the sight of his fallen children. Pray excuse this liberty in writing to you but I have been made to feel that the subject is one of such vital importance to the morals of our young students I could not refrain. Very truly yours. R. S.

Credit: R.S. to James Claghorn, 11 April 1882, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, in Gordon Hendrics, The Life and Work of Thomas Eakins (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1974).
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