THOMAS EAKINS, American artist born (d. 1916) Since the 1990s, Eakins has emerged as a major figure in sexuality studies in art history, for both the homoeroticism of his work and for the complexity of his attitudes toward women. Controversy shaped much of his career as a teacher and as an artist. He insisted on teaching men and women “the same”, used nude models in mixed-sex classes, and was accused of abusing female students.
Recent scholarship suggests that these controversies were grounded in more than the “puritanical prudery” of his colleagues (as has been assumed). Today, scholars see these controversies as caused by a combination of factors such as the bohemianism of Eakins and his circle (in which students, for example, sometimes modeled in the nude for each other), and Eakins’s inclination toward provocative behavior. Next to Michelangelo, there is few other artists whose imagery is as iconic for homoeroticism as Eakins’(see: The Swimming Hole, 1884-5.)