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The man hanging his head

Posted January. 19, 2023 07:46,   

Updated January. 19, 2023 07:46


Auguste Rodin was not the only one who created artworks under the theme of “The Thinker.” American artist Thomas Eakins, who lived in the same age as Rodin, created a painting with the same name. On the vertically long canvas is a real life-sized man. He is wearing a black suit and stares down with his head hung down. Who is he, and what is on his mind?

Born in Philadelphia, Aekins studied at the Philadelphia Arts Academy and spent most of his life as an artist/educator in his hometown. He was famous for his real-like portraits and nude paintings, which he created while studying bodies anatomically. He was rejected by clients because he did not idealize his subjects and drew portraits realistically. Because he was rejected so often, he drew paintings of his friends, family, and students. The man in this picture is Louis Kenton, a friend, and husband of his sister-in-law. He is well-dressed and stands alone in an empty indoor room. His hands are in his pockets, and he has his head down, lost in thought. Generally, men of the gentry or middle class in a portrait stare straight ahead, but Canton is depicted as self-reflective. Perhaps this is why this painting was seen as a portrait depicting a typical middle-class American's intellectual and solitary sentiment.

Little is known about Canton’s life. The only record of him is that he had been born as a son of a grain merchant and had been responsible for municipal accounting affairs. Canton married Eakin’s sister-in-law in May 1899. It was likely that the painting was created as a wedding gift. The artist intended to be a gift of wishing happiness, but the marriage was short-lived and not happy. This is assumed to be because of Canton’s violence.

The original title of the painting was “Portrait of Louis Kenton,” but the addition “The Thinker” was added by his wife after the artist passed away. How odd that she renamed the title of the man's painting that made her sister unhappy the same name as Rodin’s masterpiece. Perhaps she wanted him to hang his head low and reflect on his life.