A large body of works by Thomas Eakins was donated in 1929 and 1930 by his widow, Susan Macdowell Eakins, and their friend Mary A. Williams. Thomas Eakins spent his lifetime painting the people and landscapes of Philadelphia, his native city. Sometimes unsparing and occasionally shocking, as in his monumental portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross, Eakins’ paintings of modern American life earned a reputation for blunt realism and psychological insight.
Although his career was marred by scandal, mostly related to his use of nude models and his own obstinate behavior, Eakins lived to see his work hailed as definitively American. After the artist’s death, Susan Macdowell Eakins began conversations with museum director Fiske Kimball to create a memorial gallery in the institution’s new building on Fairmount. Her and Williams’ many gifts to the museum established the most important collection of Thomas Eakins’ paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs in the world.