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Thomas Eakins - Scenes from Modern Life HOME
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Back Dr. Samuel Gross
Portrait of the Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins Portrait of the Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins Portrait of the Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins
DR. SAMUEL GROSS
CRITICAL REACTION
It's very important to recognize that he conceived of the portrait after the Centennial jury of artists had called for pictures that would show the best of American life. He was proud of what he knew about the history of American life and certainly a stalwart of Philadelphia. He arranged detailed sitting sessions with Dr. Gross who had after all not only achieved local but international renown as a surgeon... Eakins saw surgery as Dr. Gross did as well, as a magnificent combination of the skill with one's hands and the knowledge of the human body and the power of the intellect to understand and to teach. Dr. Gross is teaching in this picture. And so he illuminated Dr. Gross' head with this magnificent burst of light on his forehead that's very characteristic of Rembrandt's techniques. And then the other very, very prominent part in the picture is the scalpel that Dr. Gross holds in his hand as he looks around the group to lecture. The scalpel and his hand is covered with blood. On looking closer at the picture you can see that there are spots of blood on the patients leg and on Dr. Gross' coat. For Eakins this was an honorable and indeed an admirable depiction of surgery...

So Eakins thought he had a fine, very fine character in Dr. Gross and surely everyone who accepted the paintings for the jury and the audience too would appreciate the celebration of a local and international hero.
ELIZABETH JOHNS , Ph. D.
Art Historian, University of Pennsylvania
To operate well demands a rare combination of qualities, which only a few favored men possess, however thoroughly they may have been educated, or however extensively they may have been engaged in the practice of their profession. To a profound knowledge of surgical anatomy, or of the relations which one part of the body bears to another, must be added extraordinary manual dexterity, the most perfect coolness and self-possession, great foresight, and an eye that is never appalled by the sight of blood...

Dr. Samuel Gross' introduction to the course of surgery, Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia October 17, 1856
Dr. Gross' Introduction
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