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Letter from America

Our Archivist was recently awarded travel grants for a brief research visit to the United States of America, and he is Stateside right now. It is too early for him to give details of the research he is conducting at the moment, but he has written the following missive for the blog:

‘Having first visited Philadelphia some sixteen years ago, I am delighted to have had the opportunity to return. Having seen the tourist sights last time – the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall – on this occasion I am spending the majority of my time in the extremely well-appointed Reading Room of the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. So far my only excursion out has been to the nearby Philadelphia Museum of Art to catch the closing days of an exhibition entitled An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing “The Gross Clinic” Anew.

‘Thomas Eakins’ 1875 The Gross Clinic is an iconic painting not only for the history of medicine but also for the city of Philadelphia. It depicts an operation performed by Dr Gross, head of surgery at the city’s medical college, surrounded by students and spectators. One critic (Paula Marantz Cohen in the Times Literary Supplement of 10 December 2010) has compared it in its relation to American art and nineteenth-century medicine to Joseph Wright’s 1768 An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (which now hangs in the National Gallery) in its relation to British art and the onset of the Industrial Revolution. In 2006 a multi-million dollar offer to purchase The Gross Clinic from the medical college spurred a successful fundraising campaign to keep it in Philadelphia. A video installation on the history and recent restoration of the painting is also on display, as well as other artworks by Thomas Eakins.'

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Photo courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.