Lecture: Fine Art & Foul Play


Lecture: Fine Art & Foul Play

Friday, October 29, 2021 @ 7:00 pm

In 1872, Thomas Eakins portrayed the champion professional rowers John and Barney Biglin in more than a dozen dramatic paintings as they raced on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia. Before baseball, professional rowing was America’s most popular and lucrative sport. But it was ruined by foul play. Reckless betting, greedy financiers, and easily corrupted athletes forged the first national sports scandal—so professional rowing was finally banned.

So in that same year, the U.S. Rowing Association of amateurs was established, now headquartered in Princeton. By the 20th Century, the sport became purely amateur and now has more women than men rowing competitively. Lanouette’s illustrated talk explores this rich and rowdy history. He also reveals how Eakins’ artistry captured both professionals and amateurs in vivid action.

The talk is sponsored by Princeton Public Library, Princeton University Art Museum, and Labyrinth Book Store where copies of the book will be available for sale.

Free registration via Zoom here. 

About the Author

William Lanouette was a journalist on the staffs of Newsweek, The National Observer, and National Journal and was Washington Correspondent for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. His freelance writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Civilization, The Economist, The New York Herald Tribune, Scientific American, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post.

"An intriguing, deep dive into the history of American rowing, populated by larger than life characters engaged in raucous deeds of derring-do punctuated by moments of timeless grace. A must-read for anyone interested in the roots of the modern sport.” 

-- Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat

"Sport can be a diversion, but it is also a mirror into society. William Lanouette’s rich, entertaining history of the rise and fall of professional rowing is a rollicking story of a lost age, but also a tale of greed and class warfare with timeless meaning." 

-- Evan Thomas, author of John Paul Jones, Being Nixon, and First: Sandra Day O’Connor.