Philadelphia painter Thomas Eakins had many and varied interests, and they all found their way into his pictures. He was an eager student of anatomy, attending lectures at local medical schools even while completing his artistic training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia’s doctors and professors of medicine figure prominently among the subjects of his portraits. He was fascinated by perspective, optics, and stop-motion photography, and used perspective studies and photography in planning his oils and watercolors. He enjoyed music and often painted rehearsals, home musicales, and professionals in concert. He was also an avid outdoorsman, and especially in the 1870s, when his career was just beginning, he painted a number of pictures of friends and family members hunting, rowing, racing sailboats or, as here, setting out in pursuit of rail, small game birds that were plentiful in the marshes along the Delaware River.