Eakins himself appears in the water at bottom right – in signature position, so to speak." Eakins referred to the painting as Swimming in 1885, and as The Swimmers in 1886.The title The Swimming Hole dates from 1917 (the year after Eakins died), when the work was so described by the artist's widow, Susan Macdowell Eakins.

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The diving figure at right leads to the swimming form of Eakins, who painted himself into the scene and whose leftward movement directs attention back into the painting.

Eakins enforces this pyramidal structure by manipulating the focus of the painting: the center area containing the swimmers is extremely precise, while the outer areas are diffuse, with "virtually no moderating zones in between".

The composition is notable for both its adherence to academic tradition (the mastery of the figure as an end in itself), and its uniqueness in transposing the male nude to an outdoor setting.

Eakins was the first American artist to portray one of the few occasions in 19th-century life when nudity was on display.

The Swimming Hole develops themes raised in his earlier work, in particular his treatment of buttocks and his ambiguous treatment of the human form; in some cases it is uncertain as to whether the forms portrayed are male or female.

Such themes had earlier been examined in his The Gross Clinic (1875) and William Rush (1877), and would continue to be explored in his paintings of boxers (Taking the Count, Salutat, and Between Rounds) and wrestlers (Wrestlers). It shows a scene of healthy, manly, outdoor activity: a group of young fellows having stripped off for a dip.It is based on the swimming excursions that were enjoyed by the artist and his students.The Swimming Hole (also known as Swimming and The Old Swimming Hole) is an 1884–85 painting by the American artist Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), Goodrich catalog #190, in the collection of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.Executed in oil on canvas, it depicts six men swimming naked in a lake, and is considered a masterpiece of American painting.For Eakins, this picture was an opportunity to display his mastery of the human form.In this work, Eakins took advantage of an exception to the generally prudish Victorian attitude to nudity: swimming naked was widely accepted, and for males was seen as normal, even in public spaces.