Eakins Countdown: 38 Days
So, who was this Gross? And why did Eakins choose to paint him?
America’s 100th birthday offered an opportunity for folks to step back, inhale, and take stock. And it was up to insightful artists like Eakins to capture and direct the public imagination. Throughout his career, Eakins mined everyday life for the unique and heroic American in their natural settings. And he found plenty: rowers, boxers, hunters, baseball players and fishermen. But on the eve of the nation’s anniversary, in the very place where the nation was born, what kind of an image could possibly hit the mark?
To paint his way out of this puzzle, Eakins needed to consider what the Founding Fathers envisioned for Philadelphia. And he needed to show, in real-life terms, what the city had become. Gross’s surgery clinic, the nexus of smarts, skill, science and success, was exactly right. Eakins must have been euphoric when he realized this scene, in the heart of America’s First City, in an institution named for the most visionary Founding Father, was the absolute right one.
Once done, The Gross Clinic served as painted proof of the Founding Fathers vision. In its particular way, it defines Centennial America. And it drives a stake in the ground stating that Philadelphia had come of age.
Are there other works of art that make the same kind of bold declaration?