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American Artist Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic

Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic

                                                                      

 

 

 

Title: The Gross Clinic

Year: 1875

Dimensions: 240 cm × 200 cm (96 in × 78 in)

Date of sale:  2007-4-12

Rank at sale: 20

Auction house: Private sale

Seller: Thomas Thomas Jefferson University

Buyer: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Original price: USD68, 000,000.00

Adjusted price in March 2011: USD73, 500, 000.00

 

The Gross Clinic, or, The Clinic of Dr. Gross, is an 1875 painting by American artist Thomas Eakins. It is oilon canvasand measures 8 feet (240 cm) by 6.5 feet (200 cm). Dr. Samuel D. Gross, a seventy-year-old professor dressed in a black frock coat, lectures a group of Jefferson Medical Collegestudents. Included among the group is a self-portrait of Eakins, who is seated to the right of the tunnel railing, sketching or writing. Seen over Dr. Gross's right shoulder is the clinic clerk, Dr. Franklin West, taking notes on the operation. Eakins's signature is painted into the painting, on the front of the surgical table.

Admired for its uncompromising realism, The Gross Clinic has an important place documenting the history of medicine—both because it honors the emergence of surgeryas a healing profession (previously, surgery was associated primarily with amputation), and because it shows us what the surgical theater looked like in the nineteenth century. The painting is based on a surgery witnessed by Eakins, in which Gross treated a young man for osteomyelitisof the femur. Gross is pictured here performing a conservative operation as opposed to an amputation (which is how the patient would normally have been treated in previous decades). Here, surgeons crowd around the anesthetized patient in their frock coats. This is just prior to the adoption of a hygienic surgical environment (see asepsis). The Gross Clinic is thus often contrasted with Eakins's later painting The Agnew Clinic(1889), which depicts a cleaner, brighter, surgical theater. In comparing the two, we see the advancement in our understanding of the prevention of infection.

It is assumed that the patient was a teenage boy, although the exposed body is not entirely discernible as male or female; the painting is shocking for both the odd presentation of this figure and the matter-of-fact goriness of the procedure.[1]Adding to the drama is the lone woman in the painting seen in the middle ground, possibly the patient's mother, cringing in distress.[1]Her dramatic figure functions as a strong contrast to the calm, professional demeanor of the men who surround the patient. This bloody and very blunt depiction of surgery was shocking at the time it was first exhibited

 




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