Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sale of Art: Thomas Eakins' Gross Clinic

Eakinsthegrossclinic The New York Times has an excellent article on the sale of Thomas Eakins' Gross Clinic by the Thomas Jefferson University Medical School.  It has important implications about a non-profit's duties to raise money and the public's interest in its local treasures.  Here's a flavor of the article:

In art, as in love, you don’t always know what you’ve got until it has one foot out the door. Thomas Eakins’s “Gross Clinic,” as great as any American painting of the 19th century, was about to leave Philadelphia but will now stay in the city that has always been home to it.

Alice L. Walton, the Wal-Mart heiress, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington wanted jointly to buy it for $68 million from Thomas Jefferson University, one of this city’s medical schools. But the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, offered a chance to match the price, promised just before Christmas that they could come up with the money after a fund-raising campaign stirred civic juices, angered Jefferson alumni who disapproved of the sale and inspired hundreds of donors, big and small, to send checks.

I'm working on a post on another Pennsylvania treasure--the Hershey Chocolate Company--and the Hershey Trust, which was at the center of another controversy over public and private rights in 2002. 

The image of the Gross Clinic is courtesy of our friends at wikipedia.  Reminds me of a terrific seminar I took with Dr. James C. Davis in college, lo those many years ago (1984).  Perhaps my interest in art history is traceable to his lecture on Eakins.  I remember it to this day....

Alfred L. Brophy
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