Anatomy/Academy

Thomas Eakins, Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic), 1875, Oil on canvas, Gift of the Alumni Association to Jefferson Medical College in 1878, purchased by PAFA and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 with help of more than 3,400 donors
Thomas Eakins, Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic), 1875
Philadelphia has been a center for art and science since the eighteenth century. Its art and medical schools have been engines of innovation and the expansion of knowledge for nearly three centuries. Team curated by PAFA’s curators of historical, modern, and contemporary art, Anatomy/Academy was the first exhibition to focus on how Philadelphia’s dynamic art and science communities, and in particular the curriculum of PAFA, fostered knowledge of the human body. Rather than dwell in separate realms these communities have often collaborated on and shared discoveries, transformed the attitudes of the public towards mental and physical health, and challenged conceptions about beauty. Philadelphia’s role in advancing knowledge of the body has been a harrowing and fascinating saga, from triage during the revolutionary war through current debates over stem cell research. Artists, often at PAFA, have been active participants in historical moments, helping to shape the public view of the meaning of the body and its place in the broader world. 

Coinciding with the return to the museum of Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic, Anatomy/Academy drew on PAFA’s rich collections, complemented by loans from Philadelphia institutions, private collections, and museums. PAFA partnered with several Philadelphia medical and science institutions to integrate material culture items from their archives, ranging from anatomy treatises to William Rush’s anatomical sculptures made for Caspar Wistar. The exhibition was arranged around pivotal period case studies in which artists, scientists, and doctors focused on important issues in human anatomy from 1805 (the founding of PAFA) through the end of World War I (1918). The exhibition included drawings, photographs, paintings, sculpture, ephemera, and material culture that deal with changing conceptions of the body over time in Philadelphia scientific and artistic culture. 

A robust series of programs accompanied this exhibition in collaboration with local science institutions such as American Philosophical Society Museum; Archives & Special Collections, Scott Memorial Library; Drexel University College of Medicine; The Library Company of Philadelphia; The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Thomas Jefferson University, and The Wistar Institute.

Listen to David Brigham speak about Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic.


Curators: Anna O. Marley, Curator of Historical American Art; Robert Cozzolino, Curator of Modern Art; Julien Robson, Curator of Contemporary Art
Dates: January 29 - April 17, 2011
Location: Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building 


Image Caption: Thomas Eakins, Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic), 1875, Oil on canvas, 96 x 78 1/2 in., 2007.2, Gift of the Alumni Association to Jefferson Medical College in 1878 and purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 with the generous support of more than 3,400 donors


Sponsors:

Major support from Drexel University College of Medicine, Bill and Laura Buck, Marguerite and H.F. Gerry Lenfest, and Dorothy J. del Bueno. Additional support from Julie and Robert Spahr.


PAFA’s special exhibitions in 2010-11 are supported by generous contributions from Donald R. Caldwell, Jonathan L. Cohen, Max N. Berry, Esq., and James C. Biddle.

WHYY is a proud media sponsor.