August 29, 2002


The Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins (1875) (Jonathan Jones, August 3, 2002, The Guardian)
Artist: Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), one of the greatest American painters, an artist of severity, of 19th-century sobriety, who never seemed to doubt that his was a moral vocation. [...]

Subject: Eakins approached Dr Samuel D Gross (1805-84) with his idea for a portrait in the operating theatre at Jefferson Medical College. Gross was an innovative surgeon and champion of surgical intervention. This operation - to save a gangrenous leg by removing pus - is one he pioneered.

Distinguishing features: It is Gross's face that holds you, his forehead caught by light from above, a glowing white star fringed with silver and grey, and the black pits of his eyes, their darkness only heightened by the light. He has paused for a moment to explain a detail of the procedure to the students all around him in the shadows of the theatre. The painting does not freeze the moment so much as expand it infinitely: there is a massive, grand stillness to this imposing canvas in which you contemplate with awe the dominating, dignified figure of the surgeon, all in black, except for the shocking shining red blood on his right hand as he holds the scalpel like a pen, or perhaps a palette knife.

What is Gross thinking?

As the husband of a doctor I can practically guarantee you he was thinking the following: "Boy, I hope they have the fried chicken basket in the cafeteria today." Posted by Orrin Judd at August 29, 2002 10:08 PM
Comments for this post are closed.