A Gross Uproar
For years, I had known of the great painting The Gross Clinic, by 19th century artist Thomas Eakins, that was housed in one of Philadelphia’s many obscure museums. In 10 years of living in Philadelphia, I’d never seen it.
Finally, when it came to the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the 2001-2002 exhibition, “Thomas Eakins: American Realist,” I was able to spend time with it.
It is a beauty (see the illustration at the end of this article)—a monumental work described by the Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski “as the greatest work by the city’s most famous and talented artist. Any list of the top 10 American paintings must include Thomas Eakins’ painting, notable both for its multiple levels of meaning and for its compositional power and technical brilliance.”
The scene is of a gory operation being performed by four surgeons wearing black business outfits in the Jefferson Hospital amphitheater. The centerpiece is Dr. Samuel D. Gross, also in black formal wear, lecturing to the medical students behind him in the gallery.
Two weeks ago, Philadelphians awoke to the announcement that this great treasure—compared by some to Rembrandt’s Night Watch—had been sold by Thomas Jefferson University to a private buyer for $68 million in a secret deal.
The culture vultures of Philly—who have been given 45 days to match the offer—have been in a snit ever since.
Should a corporation sell off its assets when it needs money?
The Reader’s Digest Collection
When my wife, Peggy, and I took over Target Marketing, I wrote a cover story about the new list person at Reader’s Digest and motored up to the Pleasantville, N.Y., headquarters for the interview, which took place in the executive offices.
As I rounded a corner in the building, I beheld Modigliani’s 1919 Portrait de Jeanne Hebuterne, with a sweet face, and wearing a black top and maroon skirt. The figure was composed of an elegant series of swoops and S-shapes, and it was hanging over a small table with a vase of fresh flowers beneath it. A matching portrait was similarly hung on the opposite side of the room. I was agog.