The Veteran (Portrait of George Reynolds)
Artist: Thomas Eakins, American, 1844?1916
Bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903
The Veteran is a portrait of George Reynolds, one of Eakins' students at the Pennsylvania Academy and a leader in the mass resignation of a group of students in protest against Eakins' ouster as teacher in 1886. During the Civil War, the Irish-born Reynolds served as a private in the Ninth Regiment Cavalry, the first Union regiment on the field at Gettysburg, firing the first shots of that battle. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1865 for heroism in the capture of the enemy's flag in battle. Eakins has hazily painted the medal on Reynold's chest in the lower center of the canvas. Although this public symbol of Reynolds' bravery is included, the focus is on the sitter's face and hands. Rather than the image of a hero, Eakins has given us a portrait of a scarred and introspective individual. At the time, Reynolds, like Eakins, was in his late forties, had recently lost his wife, and was bitterly disappointed at his lack of recognition as a painter. Set within a uniformly dark and undefined space, Reynolds is shown in a moment of deep private study, his gaze inward and meditative. Almost twenty years earlier, while a student of Gerome's at the Ecole des Beauz-Arts in Paris, Eakins wrote his father that he admired above all Gerome's portrayal of "the living thinking acting men, whose faces tell their lifelong story." This focus on the narrative power of the face would characterize Eakins' art in the last three decades of his life.
This object is on view at the gallery.
Artists on Art: Observations by Yale Faculty on Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1999), 3233, ill.
Michael Conforti et al., The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings, exh. cat. (Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, 2006), 316, 325, fig. 277.
Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 73, 15859, 329, no. 95, ill.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.