Eakins' masterpiece, acclaimed as the greatest American painting of the nineteenth century, depicts the famed surgeon Samuel D. Gross as he paused to instruct students at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Born in the city and a student at Jefferson, Eakins wished to celebrate his professor and the city's illustrious medical community. He also hoped, at the age of thirty-one, to establish his own reputation as a realist painter. Drawing on his training at the Pennsylvania Academy and in Europe, Eakins composed a majestic painting that wedded modern naturalism to the technique and impact of the old masters. Painted expressly for the Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, the picture and its bloody detail shocked the art jury; ultimately, it was displayed among the medical exhibits at the fair. Kathleen A. Foster , from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections, 2009.
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