Thomas Eakins, “Taking the Count”, Oil on Canvas, 1898, Yale University Art Gallery
“Taking the Count” is an 1898 painting by American artist Thomas Eakins that is part of the Yale University Art Collection. This depiction of the prizefight marks Eakins’ return to anatomical studies of the male figure, however in a more urban setting. This painting celebrates Thomas Eakins’s lifelong fascination with athleticism and human endurance. A fallen fighter struggles to recover from a punishing blow, as all eyes in the crowd focus on the referee counting off the seconds that could mark the end of the match.
The actual fight took place in Philadelphia on Friday, April 29, 1898, between Charley McKeever (standing) and Jack Daly and was refereed by H. Walter Schlichter. Until Eakins undertook the subject, visual representations of prize fighting had been found almost exclusively in the press and in prints. With this monumental painting, the first of Eakins’s three great boxing pictures, the artist placed the theme into the context of the fine arts, a stunning statement set against the genteel conventions of the period.
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