I have a 24 x 20" oil on canvas depicting a 19th C. man rowing a single scull. It is signed "T.R. Fines"
and appears to be in the 'realism' style popular in Philadelphia rowing circles of the early 1900s.
Do you know where I can get more information on a subject close to my heart?
Thank you for your question and I apologize for the delay. This is a new area for me and I wanted to do some research. By your question, I am not sure if you were more interested in the era of rowing as a popular sport and thus interested in the art surrounding that era; or if you were more interested in your particular painting. If you would like to email me photos, including signature on your painting I would love to see it. My email is: email@example.com.
Probably the most influential artist of the period who did paintings of rowing in Philadelphia was Thomas Eakins (American, 1844–1916).
As written in a biography on Thomas Eakins by the Yale University Art Gallery which houses “John Biglin in a Single Scull”:
~Eakins's rowing paintings capture the particular moment when rowing's popularity in America was at its height as a sporting and social event. The craze had spread to the United States from England in the 1830s with the founding of boat clubs in New York and Philadelphia. The first college boat club was formed at Yale in 1843. Philadelphia-born Eakins brought to the theme his personal experiences as an amateur rower on the Schuylkill River as well as a scientific understanding of the muscles used in the physical effort. John Biglin dominated the sport as a single rower from the early 1860s to the early 1870s, and was described as a "physical specimen . . . about as near perfect as can be found." Eakins depicts him like a figure in relief, his body strongly modeled, his arms and shoulders sculptural in their roundness. From Biglin’s facial features to the slight wearing away of the wooden thole pin that acts as a fulcrum for the oar, every element is rendered with Eakins's characteristic attention to detail. The painting transforms Biglin’s status as a sports hero of his day into an icon of American athleticism.
Other famous related work by Eakins is: The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), 1871; The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake; and Biglin Brothers Racing, 1874.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake and has the following comments about the work and the artist:
~Rowing was a relatively new sport in the 1870s and one for which Philadelphia quickly acquired a national reputation. In a series of rowing pictures, Eakins celebrated his fellow Philadelphians' athletic endeavors, creating civic icons that depict powerful bodies guided by decisive intellects. This painting commemorates the first American pair-oared scull race, held in Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River in 1872.
While the distant pair of rowers with red bandannas have not yet reached their flag, the foreground pair, John and Barney Biglin, have already rounded theirs. John pushes his oar while Barney pulls to complete the turn, bringing their scull parallel to the shore (and the painting's edge) as they begin the home stretch. Picturing the drama of the moment, Eakins creates a complex balance between a geometrical composition and forms in action.
You can read more on Eakins and his rowing paintings at: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/INCORP/eakins/rowing.html
I have not been able to locate an artist that signs as T.R. Fines. I thought he might be a student of Thomas Eakins, but I could not find an association. I will keep trying and let you know if I find anything. You may want to email the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see if they are familiar with him.
Once again, please feel free to email photos of your painting. I might be able to gain for information for research once I actually see the painting and signature.