Thomas Eakins, “Wrestlers”, 1899, Oil on Canvas, 123 x 153 cm, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California
“Wrestlers” is a name shared by three closely related 1899 paintings by Thomas Eakins. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art owns the finished painting and the oil sketch of the same scene. The Philadelphia Museum of Art owns a slightly smaller unfinished version. All three works depict a pair of nealy naked men engaged in a wrestling match. The setting for the finished painting is the Quaker City Barge Club which once stood on Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row.
On May 22, 1899, Eakins had two wrestlers pose in his fourth-floor studio on Mount Vernon Street in Philadelphia. Sportswriter Clarence Cranmer was there to give advice about positioning the wrestlers. Eakins painted the works from the live models and from a nearly identical photograph, most likely taken that day.
Eakins painted the finished “Wrestlers” for the National Academy Museum in New York as his so-called diploma painting when he was inducted into membership in 1902. It was acquired as a gift by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2006.