"The Gross Clinic to Stay in Philadelphia"
According to a press release of PMA, " In the near future, the masterpiece will be on view at the Museum where it will be seen in context with Eakins and his contemporaries, and it will be shown at the Academy shortly thereafter. Wachovia Bank has agreed to provide any necessary financing."
Among the donations were $10 million from the Annenberg Foundation and three contributions of $ 3 million, according to an AP report.
A knowledgable source from PAFA said that according to the plan, the painting will be shared by PMA and PAFA, alternating five-year periods, the first of which will be at PAFA. Furthermore, he said that PMA has agreed to loan PAFA some of its paintings during the time that “The Gross Clinic” is at PMA.
Among the Eakins in the extensive PMA collection is a sketch for “The Gross Clinic,” [ Oil on canvas, 26 x22 inches]. “The Agnew Clinic,” [Oil on canvas 84 3/8 x 118 1/8inches] is currently on view at PMA, though it is owned by the University of Pennsylvania, where it had been in the foyer of the Morgan Building.
In November of this year the effort to keep "The Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia began. PAFA, where Eakins was a student and, later, a teacher, is home to an Eakins collection, The Bregler Collection, which includes photographs, drawings and letters. In a press release, PAFA provided background information about the painting:
“Painted in 1875, The Gross Clinic is widely considered Eakins’ finest work. The 8’ by 6’ painting, which stands as a testament to the strides Philadelphia made in the medical and educational fields, depicts famed Philadelphia Dr. Samuel D. Gross performing bone surgery on a young man, while a woman often thought to be the patient’s mother cringes in the middle ground. Depicted in Jefferson’s surgical ampitheater, Gross is dramatically caught in a shaft of light from the skylight, and turns majestically away from the patient to address his students as his assistants continue their work. From this perspective, the viewer occupies a seat alongside Gross’ students. At the right, Eakins depicts himself in the audience, attentively recording the scene.
The Gross Clinic, which Eakins completed when he was 31, was submitted for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition but was rejected from the Fine Art Gallery in Philadelphia’s Memorial Hall because of its shocking content.
Probably through the machinations of Dr. Gross and his colleagues, however, it was placed on view on the Centennial grounds at the United States Army Post Hospital, in a ward filled with hospital bedding and furniture. Commentators wondered at the placement: “It was one of the most powerful and life-like pictures to be seen at the Exhibition, and should have had a place at the Art Gallery, where it would have been seen but for an incomprehensible decision by the Selecting Committee.”
The critic William Clark—who had earlier written, “This portrait of Dr. Gross is a great work—we know of nothing greater that has ever been executed in America,” returned to his defense of the picture: “There is nothing so fine in the American section of the Art Department of the Exhibition and it is a great pity that the squeamishness of the Selection Committee compelled the artist to find a place in the United States Hospital Building. It is rumored that the blood on Dr. Gross’s fingers made some of the committee members sick, but, judging from the quality of the works exhibited by them we fear that it was not the blood alone that made them sick. Artists have before now been known to sicken at the sight of pictures by younger men which they in their souls were compelled to acknowledge were beyond their emulation.” (Marc Simpson, in The 1870s, essay in Thomas Eakins (Philadelphia Museum of Art 2001) ed. Darrel Sewell)
An art critic for the New York Tribune called it “one of the most powerful, horrible yet fascinating pictures that has been painted anywhere in this century …” In 2002, when it was exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art-organized Thomas Eakins: American Realist retrospective exhibition at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman called it “hands down, the finest 19th century American painting …”
The painting was purchased for $200 by Jefferson alumni and given to the institution in 1878. It has remained on view at Jefferson, where Eakins himself studied anatomy, since its donation, except for periodic loans to exhibitions across the country.”