21 Days: The Third Strike

We’ve always heard talk of earlier attempts to pry The Gross Clinic from its moorings at Jefferson, but we never knew any detail.  Then we ran across an old, yellowed clipping. 

On March 25, 1976, Adrian Lee of The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin wrote that Jefferson had rejected a $1 million offer for the painting in 1969.  But he had a more dramatic number to report.  Lee had gotten wind of a new offer: a $30 million building in exchange for the painting.  After “two stormy, back to back meetings,” in December 1975 and January 1976, Jefferson held a “secret vote.” Sixty eight voted to keep the painting.  Only seven voted to sell it. 

Who was this would-be buyer?  Both times it was no less than Paul Mellon, trustee of the National Galley of Art in Washington, D.C. — the very same institution today teamed up with Crystal Bridges. 

Philadelphia had a rough time of its Bicentennial summer, what with the outbreak of Legionairre’s Disease and Mayor Frank L. Rizzo’s calling for the National Guard to avert would-be protests.  But the Eakins was a star in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Bicentennial exhibition Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art.

As Adrian Lee said it three decades ago:  “The Gross Clinic, with its blacks and greys, stays in Philadelphia.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: Eakins Countdown

3 Comments on “21 Days: The Third Strike”


  1. Thanks for the historical perspectives. How is current campaign progressing?

    Dr.Rick Lippin
    Southampton. PA

  2. Len Klekner Says:

    You are making an assumption that the National Gallery is in fact a contributing party to the purchase. This may not be warranted. Some serious investigative reporting is called for. The National Gallery’s seeming participation may simply be a ruse to make the sale more palatable, just as the National Gallery’s temporary exhibition of Durand’s “Kindred Spirits” was used to quiet outrage over its purchase by Ms. Walton, in a highly questionable transaction that begged investigation. It is not insignificant that the individual advising Ms. Walton in her acquisitions has had a long-standing involvement with the National Gallery. Many questions need to be asked about this proposed purchase. And not the least of these are who is providing the money and who will actually own the work. Will the National Gallery even have fractional title? Will Crystal Bridges be the owner? Or will Ms. Walton hold title? The Durand debacle should put us all on guard.


  3. Great site and interesting reading


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