Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Reconsidering swimming: Thomas Eakins and the changing landscapes of modernity in late nineteenth-century Philadelphia
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Thomas Eakins' Swimming pictures a transitory moment caught between two historically-specific community forms. While the earlier rural moment had been defined by accessibility and egalitarian leisure, the later suburban moment was defined by exclusive recreation and class homogeneity. Set near Bryn Mawr, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia promoted by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the painting encapsulates the tension between an imagined pastoral past and a modern state of metropolitan interconnectedness. This thesis will use a variety of period sources--including urban guidebooks, advertisements, and literature--to examine the ways in which Swimming engages the complicated and conflicted cultural vision of the outer city. While earlier scholarship has centered on the personal, professional and cultural identities of the figures within the painting, this thesis instead uses the activity of the figures within the space of the painting to inform larger cultural interpretations of the suburban landscape in which the work is set.