The Gross Clinic (1875) by Thomas Eakins

The Gross Clinic - Thomas Eakins - 1875

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Gross Clinic
ArtistThomas Eakins
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions198.12 x 243.84 cm
Art MovementRealism
Current LocationPhiladelphia Museum of Art

About The Gross Clinic

“The Gross Clinic,” created by Thomas Eakins in 1875, is a monumental work of art that exemplifies the Realism art movement. This oil on canvas genre painting measures 198.12 by 243.84 cm and is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The artwork captures a moment in the life of Dr. Samuel D. Gross, a renowned surgeon, as he conducts a surgical operation in a medical amphitheater filled with students and observers.

The artwork presents a candid and graphic depiction of a surgery in progress. Dr. Samuel D. Gross stands as the central figure, clothed in a dark suit standing out against the dimly lit surgical theatre, gazing commandingly over the proceedings. His left hand, still unbloodied, gestures towards the patient or perhaps to his audience as he lectures. To the right front and center, the focus of the scene, is the patient, under the knife and chloroform, lying on the operating table with an incision exposed. Surrounding Gross, a team of assistants and students are intently engaged in the operation—one holds instruments, another assists directly with the surgery, and a note-taker is capturing the procedure. One figure, likely a nurse or the patient’s mother, appears distressed, turned away from the operation, her hand to her face in a gesture of concern or dismay.

The composition captures the intense concentration and clinical atmosphere of the 19th-century medical practice. The distant observers, tiered in the background, reinforce the sense that this is a teaching moment as much as a medical procedure. Mastery and education, as well as the sobering realities of medicine, are all themes potently expressed in this work. Eakins’s use of chiaroscuro amplifies the gravity of the operation, focusing all light and attention on the surgery while rendering the periphery in shadows. This technique imbues the artwork with a dramatic intensity befitting the serious nature of its subject.

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