25 January 2023
Eakins, Thomas, et al. A Drawing Manual. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2005.
Thomas Eakins' drawing manual on perspective is a comprehensive guide to understanding the principles of linear perspective in drawing and painting. The manual covers a range of topics including the basics of one- and two-point perspective, the use of vanishing points and horizon lines, and the use of foreshortening to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. Eakins also provides detailed explanations and illustrations on the use of perspective in depicting buildings, landscapes, and other architectural subjects. The manual is intended for artists of all skill levels and emphasizes the importance of observation and practice in mastering the techniques of perspective drawing.
Importantly, the manual is written in a simple, unfussy style with all explanations centered on the human eye. Is this way, Eakins understands each drawing as a human action, not an object. His work is humanistic in a literal sense, supported by an empirical understanding of the world.
How does this relate to scenography?
Eakins' perspective drawing techniques can be extremely useful for set design students as they are essential for creating believable, three-dimensional spaces on a two-dimensional stage - especially if you are working within the conventions of naturalism. The principles of linear perspective, such as the use of vanishing points and horizon lines, can help students create accurate and realistic renderings of their set designs. Additionally, the use of foreshortening and other techniques for creating the illusion of depth can help students create a sense of spatial relationships and movement within the stage space, even in non-naturalistic settings. Furthermore, Eakins' emphasis on observation and practice can be applied to set design students by encouraging them to study real-world architecture, spaces, and environments in order to understand how light, shadow, and other elements can be used to create a believable and immersive stage setting. Very important.
In terms of racial and gender diversity, Eakins' work has been criticized for its lack of representation of non-white and non-male subjects. His paintings and photographs mainly depict white, cisgender men, and the majority of his female subjects were white and from upper-class backgrounds. While Eakins was an artist of his time and it is important to understand the context of the era in which he was working, his work does not reflect the diversity of society.
Today, there is an increased awareness and emphasis on representation and inclusion in the art world, and many artists and institutions are actively working to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. As a result, Eakins' work, while historically significant, may not align with contemporary ideas of racial and gender diversity in art.