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The Gross Clinic

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 3 (596 words)
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One reason that there may have been such strong reaction to the gruesome nature of The Gross Clinic was due to the vivisection controversy going on at the time.

When the work was shown in 1876 at Haseltine there was a bill to outlaw vivisection pending in the Pennsylvania legislature (Hendricks, 100). Haseltine is in Philadelphia so the majority of the vivisection controversy was in the same area as the exhibitions of The Gross Clinic. According to Hendricks, most people who opposed Dr.

Gross and other medical men on their views of vivisection thought that vivisection was “murder in the name of sciene”(100). They felt as though the patient looked helpless and was at the hand of a scientifically driven bloodthirsty surgeon. If the painting had not included a patient portrayed as pitiful and malnourished with blood on the doctor and around the site of the surgery, The Gross Clinic may have looked less bloodthirsty to those who reviewed it (Hendricks, 100) From this, the conclusion can be drawn that if The Gross Clinic had not looked so bloodthirsty some critics may have appreciated it because it would not have gone along with the vivisection controversy at the time.

Another issue for critics is the person that can be seen in the bottom left corner of The Gross Clinic, Figure 1. The form seen is of a woman who is hiding her face behind her hands. A critic from the Tribune called the women an “unnecessary melodramatic element” (Hendricks, 91). Henddricks further explained that the same critic also questioned why she was at the surgery in the first place as well as why she looked to be in horror (91). A critic from Times agreed with the Tribune that “the old woman should not have been there, and made a curious cavil” (Hendricks, 98). These critiques reflect more on how women were seen at the time The Gross Clinic was released rather than being an element that Thomas Eakins himself purposely chose to include. The reason Eakins likely included the women was because a family member had to present at the surgery during this time period and the family member who was at the surgery that inspired this painting was likely a woman. This is one of the small criticisms on a painting which was reviewed as being strong in detail even by those who criticized it.

When looking at how closely, many of the key elements of The Gross Clinic resemble elements from several of Rembrandt’s works you begin to wonder how something so structurally sound could be so unpopular. In order to understand why a work that was called strong and skillful by critics could also be unpopular, you have to look at the period in which it was painted. The Gross Clinic was largely unpopular do to the “gruesome” nature of the painting. Although to people of our period the blood may seem necessary for the full effect of the painting, it did not seem necessary to the people of his period. This is because at the time Eakins released The Gross Clinic vivisection was a huge controversy and an element like that made the work seem bloodthirsty. The work also included a woman who seemed to look on at the surgery in horror. This too, was an element that caused the piece to be unpopular. However, when times changed, vivisection was no longer a controversial topic and women were no longer looked down upon so the piece grew more popular and that is why we still talk about it to this day.

Cite this essay

The Gross Clinic. (2019, Nov 24). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/one-reason-that-there-may-have-been-such-strong-reaction-to-the-example-essay

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