Eakins Countdown: 36 Days

We find something on Dr. Gross in volume three of Joseph Jackson’s wonderful Encyclopedia of Philadelphia (1932), nestled between Gripsholm (a 17th century Swedish fort on the Schuylkill) and Grubtown (a less preferred name for the neighborhood of Crescentville):

GROSS, Samuel David—(1805-1884), surgeon, writer on medical subjects, was one of the most distinguished surgeons Philadelphia produced. He was a son of Philip and Johanna Juliana (Brown) Gross, and was born in Forks Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where his father had a large farm. He was educated at the Academy, Wilkes-Barre, and subsequently entered the office of Joseph K. Swift, of Easton, as a pupil, remaining with is preceptor until he entered the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, in the class of 1828, and at the same time placed himself as an office pupil under Dr. George McClellan, the founder of the institution, and father of the Union General of that name. After graduation (1828) Dr. Gross set up an office in Philadelphia, and proving unsuccessful, after two years, he went to Easton, and in 1833 established himself in Cincinnati. There he became professor in two medical colleges and after seven years in the Ohioan city, was elected to the chair of surgery in The Louisville (Ky.) Medical Institute. In 1849, he removed to New York but the following year returned to Louisville. In 1856, he was called to Philadelphia to take the chair of surgery in the Jefferson College, and remained Professor of Surgery there until his retirement in 1882.

He was the author of A System of Surgery (1859); Elements of Pathological Anatomy (1839): A Manual of Military Surgery (1861), which in 1874 was translated into Japanese. He was a prolific writer on medical subjects, was connected as contributor with several medical periodicals, and was author of a number of treatises on the subject of anatomy and surgery. He founded the American Surgical Society, and several Philadelphia societies of surgeons and anatomists. In 1876, he presided over the International Congress of Surgeons which convened in Philadelphia. From Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh Universities he received degrees, and on his death bed, the University conferred upon him that of L.L.D. Thomas Eakins painted a portrait of Dr. Gross in the clinical amphitheatre of the Jefferson Medical College, in 1875, one of that artists’ greatest works.

Gross died in 1884, nearly half a century before Jackson wrote these words. What were they saying about Gross while he was alive, before the paint–and the blood–were dry?

Stay tuned.

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3 Comments on “Eakins Countdown: 36 Days”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    According to today’s Inquirer, Mayor Street is trying to keep The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia under the city’s historic preservation code.

    “Designation as a “historic object,” a rarely used category of the preservation code, would prevent the painting from being altered or moved without the express approval of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.”

    Does anyone think Street/the preservation code has the clout to stop someone with $68 million burning a hole in their pocket?

    The full article can be found here — http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/16055499.htm

  2. Anonymous Says:

    According to today’s Inquirer, Mayor Street is trying to keep The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia under the city’s historic preservation code.

    “Designation as a “historic object,” a rarely used category of the preservation code, would prevent the painting from being altered or moved without the express approval of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.”

    Does anyone think Street/the preservation code can stop someone with $68 million burning a hole in their pocket?

    The full article can be found here — http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/16055499.htm

  3. Doris Fanelli Says:

    I have high praise for Mayor Street’s sttempt to reverse this tragedy. He wrote the City’s Preservation Ordinance when he was a member of City Council. Can he succeed in such a brief amount of time? I’m not an attorney but perhaps there is some legal way to extend the time for concerned citizens and cultural organizations to raise the ransom money.
    When the proposed buyer of the Dream Garden learned of the community’s feelings about his purchase, he withdrew his offer. Does Crystal Bridges Museum realize the anguish they’ve caused?
    If this sale succeeds it will embolden other organizations with art collections to consider liquidating them. This would be unfortunate because saving it all is an impossibility.
    Public institutions that own great art have to realize that they are the stewards of the art, not the owners. Their responsibility is to care for the collections for present and future generations. The art doesn’t belong to them; it belongs to everyone and is part of the community’s cultural patrimony. The Gross Clinic sale is a form of looting.
    This sale has betrayed a lot of trusts. The Jefferson alumni gave the painting to their school trusting that it would remain there. The clandestine manner of the sale destroyed any trust the alumni and faculty had in their institution. Jefferson’s weak excuse of giving the community 45 days to ransom the painting is a joke. It took the school twice that time to put this deal together. Why didn’t they approach the community first? They plaster advertisemens for their hospital on every bus; but they kept this sale quiet. But I’m equally dismayed that officials at the National Gallery did not call their colleagues at PMA or PAFA. There’s a trust and collegiality among fellow professionals that has been lost. NG people know how this painting is valued in Philadelphia and they know that the most definitive Eakins shows have been mounted here. No one has behaved honorably during this debacle.


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