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Watch: Art Students Reproduce Eakins Masterpiece


Watch: Art Students Reproduce Eakins Masterpiece

by Stacey Kutish

The Gross Clinic, as reimagined by Swarthmore College Students
Detail of the Making Art seminar's sculptural interpretation of Thomas Eakin's The Gross Clinic.

The first-year students in Logan Grider's Making Art seminar have been challenged to develop artistic perspective in assignments throughout the semester. In addition to traditional still life and portrait drawing, they have participated in observational drawing from a surgical theater. Working in charcoal, they developed stop frame animation shorts. For their final project of the semester, they approached one of the Philadelphia area's most renowned paintings, Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic.

The students were charged with recreating the painting in three dimensions. As described in The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The relief is made from a week's worth of the college's cast-off cardboard boxes and containers. Hands, heads, and body parts are constructed from pieces held together with hot glue. One arm alone could be composed of as many as 500 or 600 bits of paper." Adding to the challenge, there were two sections of the course working collaboratively, in shifts, to develop the 16 foot tall rendering of the painting, which is twice the size of the original.

The students studied The Gross Clinic, from a variety of perspectives before tackling their creative re-envisioning of the piece. They viewed the original painting, currently on display at the Academy of Fine Arts, studied its importance in a correlate art history course taught by Michael Cothren, and met with Mark Tucker, senior conservator of paintings and vice chair of conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who has done work on the original painting.

The resulting piece is intended to be temporary and when it is demolished the materials will be returned to the recycling bins from which they were originally gathered.