Thomas Hovenden, Study of Female Nude and Male Heads

Crayon on paper
Credit Line
Woodmere Art Museum: Gift of Mr. Stiles Tuttle Colwill, 2018
18 ¼ in. x 12 ½ in.

Thomas Hovenden’s portrayal of this female nude is highly finished and detailed, particularly compared to his reclining nude, also in Woodmere’s collection. The shading along the figure’s back and legs adds depth to the sketch and creates the effect of three-dimensionality. 

As a young artist in 1860, Hovenden used shading in a similar way in his depiction of the Venus de Milo (Alexandros de Antioch, 130–100 BCE). The work so impressed the council of the National Academy of Design that they admitted him to the academy without further examination. This drawing shows how later in his career Hovenden applied his early shading skills to a live model.

Hovenden became a professor of painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1886. He replaced Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), who was dismissed after he offended Victorian sensibilities by removing a male model’s loincloth during a class for female students. Hovenden continued to offer many of the anatomy-oriented courses that Eakins emphasized, but he also renewed the classic art education approach of drawing from antiquity.

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