Philadelphia Leaders and Public Unite to Secure Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic for Philadelphia

  • December 21, 2006
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Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street announced at a press conference today that Thomas Eakins's painting, The Gross Clinic, will stay in Philadelphia forever. The philanthropic community in Philadelphia has united with a nationwide grassroots effort to enable two cultural institutions here to match the $68 million sale price of the painting.

The Annenberg Foundation is donating $10 million toward the effort. H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, Joseph Neubauer and The Pew Charitable Trusts will each donate $3 million. In addition, the drive to secure the painting has resulted to date in more than 2,000 donations all over the country, including 30 states and the District of Columbia.

"Eakins' iconic painting, The Gross Clinic, is by a Philadelphian, about Philadelphians, and set in Philadelphia," said Mayor John F. Street. "It belongs in Philadelphia, just as much as the Liberty Bell and our sports teams. We extend profound thanks to the citizens of Philadelphia who made it possible to keep this important piece of our cultural heritage right here where it belongs. What a remarkable gift in this season of giving!"

The painting will be purchased jointly by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and exhibited publicly by both institutions. In the near future, the masterpiece will be on view at the Museum where it will be seen in context with Eakins and his contemporaries, and it will be shown at the Academy shortly thereafter. Wachovia Bank has agreed to provide any necessary financing.

"Walter Annenberg had great admiration for Thomas Eakins's work, and in particular, for The Gross Clinic," said Leonore Annenberg, president and chairman of the Annenberg Foundation and wife of the late Walter Annenberg. "He would have wanted the painting to stay in Philadelphia and would be so pleased that we are ensuring that it will be accessible to Philadelphians and visitors from around the world for years to come. I am thrilled to be able to carry out what I believe would have been his strong wishes."

"We deeply appreciate the efforts of Senator Specter, Governor Rendell and Mayor Street, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and all the donors who supported this project to keep The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia," said H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. "This has truly been an example of civic pride and accomplishment for the entire community. Meanwhile, the fundraising effort continues apace, because we need additional financial support."

"The grassroots campaign to keep Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia has galvanized people across the region," said Hugh Long, CEO for Wachovia's MidAtlantic Banking Group. "It also demonstrates what we at Wachovia believe-that Philadelphia is not the next great city-it IS a great city. It's a city with a rich history, a wealth of cultural treasures and a legacy of medical and education innovation. But its most important asset is passionate leaders who care about this city and its future. Wachovia is proud to help these leaders achieve the goal of saving a part of the city's heritage and ensuring that people across the nation and around the world see Philadelphia as the great city it is."

The Gross Clinic is a dramatic 8' by 6' painting of Dr. Samuel D. Gross, distinguished surgeon and first chair of surgery at Thomas Jefferson University's Medical College, performing bone surgery in front of his students. Thomas Eakins, a Philadelphia native, who was for many years an instructor and a director of the Academy, painted the portrait in 1875 after studying anatomy under Dr. Gross. The announcement in Philadelphia comes after Thomas Jefferson University, owner of the painting since 1878, agreed in early November to sell the work to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for $68 million. Local art and governmental institutions were offered the opportunity to match the bid within 45 days.

Joseph Neubauer, chairman and CEO of ARAMARK Corporation, stated, "Treasures like The Gross Clinic are vital to the cultural fabric of the region. I am thrilled at the remarkable response from the community to act on this important endeavor in such a short period of time. This represents a strong commitment to building and preserving Philadelphia's arts and heritage."

"The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, our nation's first fine arts institution, will be proud to be able to share this important painting with art lovers in Philadelphia and around the globe," said Donald R. Caldwell, Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "Thomas Eakins was a student and teacher at the Academy, so this is poetic justice for one of America's greatest masters."

"A city's cultural icons are central to its identity and its aspirations," said Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "If the city of Amsterdam were faced with the potential loss of Rembrandt's The Night Watch, that community too would rally. Like The Night Watch, The Gross Clinic possesses a powerful national significance rooted in its home city. Now that it will take its place in the galleries of the Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy, both of which provide such a profound context, it will become an extraordinary pilgrimage destination-the capstone of Eakins' achievement telling its remarkable story of greatness in Philadelphia, past, present and future."

"We have proven to the world that we are a 'comeback city' that will rise to every occasion," said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. "Our region values its arts and heritage and takes pride in being excellent stewards of these works. The Pew Charitable Trusts commends Mayor Street, Wachovia Bank, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art for their leadership. We thank the broad array of donors who have contributed to this remarkable effort, and we are deeply honored to be a part of this extraordinary civic collaboration to keep the painting here in Philadelphia, where it belongs."

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