Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Thomas Eakins painted during a period in American history when the roles of men and women were at once rigidly prescribed and actively questioned; he explored questions of gender throughout his career. In this portrait, Eakins disavowed period notions of the ideal female body to emphasize the sitter’s inner life. With her muscular neck and shoulders, dreamy, unfocused gaze, and melancholic air, Alice Kurtz is not merely an object for the male gaze, but a psychologically complex, self-possessed personality.

The portrait was commissioned by the sitter’s father, William B. Kurtz, a prominent Philadelphia banker. He was displeased with the picture, complaining that Eakins had reduced his healthy and athletic daughter to “a bag of bones, an anatomical sketch.” He dispatched the portrait to the attic of the family’s Philadelphia home, where it remained until 1925.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, American (Philadelphia, PA 1844 - 1916 Philadelphia, PA)
Miss Alice Kurtz
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2710, North Arcade
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
59.4 x 49.2 cm (23 3/8 x 19 3/8 in.)
framed: 85 x 74.3 x 4.5 cm (33 7/16 x 29 1/4 x 1 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r.: EAKINS
Given by Thomas Eakins to Mr. and Mrs. Willaim Kurtz, Philadelphia (parents of the sitter), 1903.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift in part of Mrs. John Whiteman (Alice Kurtz); purchase in part with funds contributed by friends of John Coolidge, Director, 1948-1968
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Lloyd Goodrich, Thomas Eakins: His Life and Work (New York, NY, 1933), p. 139, no. 379

Sylvan Schendler, Eakins, Little, Brown & Company (Boston, MA, 1967), figs. 143, 265, pp. 294 f.

John Coolidge, "Portrait of a Young Woman", Fogg Art Museum Newsletter, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, January 1969), vol. VI, no. 3, pp. 1-2

Acquisitions, 1969-1970, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1970), ill. p. 79

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 113, ill.

Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Thomas Eakins, Grossman Publishers (New York, NY, 1974), pp. 263, 265, no. 138, ill. p. 329

John Wilmerding, "Harvard and American Art", Apollo (June 1978), vol. CVII, no. 196, pp. 490-495, p. 494, fig. 3

Lloyd Goodrich, Thomas Eakins, National Gallery of Art/Harvard University Press (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, MA, 1982), pp. 91, 93, cat. 188, ill.

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), p. 186, cat. 212, ill.

Harvard University Art Museums, Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Kathleen Spies, "Figuring the Neurasthenic: Thomas Eakins, Nervous Illness, and Gender in Victorian America", Nineteenth Century Studies (1998), 12, pp. 85-109, p. 87, repr. p. 88 as fig. 3

Kathleen Spies, "Figuring the Neurasthenic: Thomas Eakins, Nervous Illness, and Gender in Victorian America", exh. cat., ed. Katherine Williams and Zachary Ross, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts (Stanford, 2004), p. 38, repr. p. 39 as fig. 22

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 97-98, cat. 65, ill. p. 97

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), ill. p. 169

Molly Hutton, Beyond Realism: The Art of Kent Bellows 1970-2005, Kent Bellows Studio and Center for Visual Arts (Omaha, Nebraska, 2010), ill. p. 16

Exhibition History

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977

Portraits of Thomas Eakins, National Portrait Gallery, London, 10/08/1993 - 01/23/1994

The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001

32Q: 2710 North Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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