From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Late Nineteenth-Century Painting

What is The Gross Clinic?

The Gross Clinic is an 1875 realist painting by the American painter, Thomas Eakins, and depicts Dr. Samuel David Gross performing leg surgery in front of medical students. The choice of subject matter was shocking to the traditional art critics and the painting was rejected by the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition in 1876. The painting is notable for its use of chiaroscuro, a sharp contrast of dark and light that is reminiscent of baroque painting. Powerful beams of light highlight both Dr. Gross’s forehead and bloody, scalpel-wielding hand, emphasizing his intelligence and dexterity. The patient’s leg has been cut open, revealing the muscle underneath the skin, causing the patient’s mother, also among the audience, to recoil and hide her face. The Gross Clinic highlights Eakins’s dedication to Realism and is an important example of nineteenth-century American painting.

The Gross Clinic (1875) by American painter Thomas Eakins highlights the artist’s dedication to realism and is an important example of nineteenth-century American painting.


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