Baseball Players Practicing
Baseball Players Practicing, 1875
Watercolor over charcoal on paper
Plate: 27 x 20.2 cm (10 5/8 x 7 15/16 inches)
Jesse Metcalf Fund and Walter H. Kimball Fund 36.172
Philadelphian Thomas Eakins was eager to find modern American subjects that could enlarge the tradition of historical figurative painting. Contemporary sports—-sculling, sailing, swimming, and boxing—offered him innovative themes and the opportunity to showcase highly defined bodies. RISD’s detailed watercolor is Eakins’s only major work devoted to the developing professional sport of baseball. In a letter of 1875 to artist Everett Shinn, Eakinspointed out that the ball players were portraits of Athletic boys, a Philadelphia club, at practice. They were “very fine in their build,” he told Shinn, and the scene would “admit of fine figure painting.” One of Eakins’s favored works, he exhibited it many times in the decade after its completion.