|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2012)|
|Type||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||40.8 cm × 50.96 cm (16.1 in × 20.06 in)|
|Location||Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California|
The Wrestlers is an 1899 painting by Thomas Eakins, Goodrich catalog #317, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California. Executed in oil on canvas, it depicts two nearly naked men engaged in a wrestling match. One figure has the other in a half nelson and crotch hold. Eakins painted the work from the models and a nearly identical photograph.
The photograph probably was taken on Monday, May 22, 1899, in Eakins's studio on the fourth floor of his father's house at 1729 Mount Vernon Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The prior Friday, Eakins had written to his friend, sportswriter Clarence Cranmer, asking for assistance in posing the athletes. Eakins's protégé Samuel Murray modeled a small sculpture of the wrestlers, that is also dated 1899.
Goodrich catalogue #G-319 is thought to be an abandoned version of the work, rather than a study for G-317. The unfinished painting was bought in 1926 by Philadelphia Museum of Art President Fiske Kimball, who later donated it to his museum. According to Kimball's reminiscences: Cranmer (who was acting as the dealer for Mrs. Eakins) said the abandoned version had been valued low, and had not been included in the Thomas Eakins memorial exhibitions. "He said he would find out the price. It was $400. I bought it and by Christmas 1926 it was hanging in the library at Lemon Hill." Letters from Cranmer to Kimball in the PMA Archives identify the man on top as Joseph McCann, a wrestler and championship boxer, but do not identify the man on the bottom.
The oil sketch, G-318, apparently was painted after G-319, along with the finished version, G-317. In these, the men are shown at the Quaker City Barge Club, which once stood on Philadelphia's Boathouse Row.
Eakins was elected an academician of the National Academy of Design in 1902. He donated the finished version of The Wrestlers (G-317) as a "diploma picture," along with a self-portrait. The NAD deassessioned the wrestling painting in 1968, and sold it in 1970 to the Columbus Museum of Art. It was part of the Columbus, Ohio museum's permanent collection until 2005, when it was deassessioned to raise funds toward the purchase of the Philip J. and Suzanne Schiller collection of American art. The oil sketch (G-318) had been in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art since the 1920s. Patron Cecile Bartman funded LACMA's 2006 purchase of the finished painting, so the two works would be reunited.
G-319. Unfinished version of The Wrestlers (1899), Philadelphia Museum of Art.
G-318. Oil sketch for The Wrestlers (1899). Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Ilene Susan Fort, "Wither the Wrestlers?" American Quarterly, vol. 62, no. 2 (June 2010).
- Theodor Siegl, The Thomas Eakins Collection: The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA, 1978), pp. 149-50.
- TE to Cranmer, May 19, 1899; cited in an August 29, 1931 letter from Cranmer to Fiske Kimball in the PMA Archives. Siegl, p. 149.
- Fort, pp. 395-402.