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Back The Unfinished Portrait
Portrait of Dr. Edward Anthony Spitzka, by Thomas Eakins Portrait of Dr. Edward Anthony Spitzka, by Thomas Eakins Portrait of Dr. Edward Anthony Spitzka, by Thomas Eakins
THE UNFINISHED PORTRAIT
I think it's perhaps utterly appropriate, symbolic, fortuitous, whatever the word you want to use, that the last picture he was working on, evidently, when he died, which was sitting on his easel in his studio, was a painting of a doctor named Anthony Spitzka. Dr. Spitzka was a brain surgeon. It's very modern in its abstraction. And the strange paradoxical thing about it is that you can't tell whether it's a life mask or a death mask. It's as if Eakins was intuitively painting an autopsy, whether he was building the head up to finish it or tearing it down like an x-ray to look inside it. And you have to say how incredibly perfect the head that's before you there abstracted, and in a way illegible, was of a brain surgeon who was another pioneer in the sciences who Eakins had so admired all his life. JOHN WILMERDING
Art Historian, Princeton University
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