The Agnew Clinic by Thomas Eakins

 Thomas Eakins was commissioned to paint the portrait of the retiring Dr. David Hayes Agnew. As he was planning the painting, his plans got more elaborate. The plaque at the Philadelphia Museum of Art says it took him 3 months of working night and day to finish it.

It’s a large canvas. I was struck by the light on the good Dr. He’s not just in the light, he’s “enlightened “. And he’s trying to share his wisdom with his students. The guys in the gallery seem grey in contrast. I even thought one guy looked a little green when I saw it in person.

This painting was rejected when he entered it at the PA. Academy of Art in 1891, and rejected again at the New York Academy of American Artists in 1892.  When they hung it in Chicago, the critics said it has psychological sexual overtones , with masculinity subjugating feminity. It was controversial at the time.

As a woman in this century, this doesn’t offend me. I didn’t even notice till I read that. I was totally amazed by the painting when I walked into the gallery.


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