elderly woman in white dress with tulle shawl and lace cap sitting at a spinning wheel, patterned rug on the floor, small wheel and toy wood horse at lower left
Thomas Eakins painted this intimate scene of a woman spinning yarn in 1876, the year that the United States celebrated its centennial anniversary. It is one of a series of works by Eakins exploring historic American crafts. The woman’s activity and old-fashioned dress reflect a nostalgia for the early American past that was part of a movement known as the Colonial Revival.
This painting was purchased directly from the artist by Smith College’s first president, Laurenus Clark Seelye, who bargained with Eakins for a lesser price. Its inventory number—1879:1-1—indicates that this was the first work the Museum acquired in 1879. Indeed, this is one of the first paintings bought by Smith College (the second purchase of record) to form its art collection and it is also the first work by Eakins purchased for a public institution.
woman; costume; work; domestic life