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This article was published in The American Surgeon Volume 77, Issue 11, November 2011, Pages e229-e231.

The published version is available at PMID: 22196632. Copyright © Ingenta


Thomas Eakins was an American artist whose unique and prolific style set him apart from other artists of the late 19th century.1 He chose to portray his subjects with intense objectivity, never deviating from reality. Even during his era when art was expected to be always beautiful, demonstrating Victorian morals of decency and decorum, Eakins chose to paint the naked truth.1 Walt Whitman was noted to have said, ‘‘I never knew of but one artist, and that’s Tom Eakins, who would resist the temptation to see what they ought to be rather than what it is.’’2 It was Eakins’ rigid adherence to painting reality that contributes to the present understanding of surgical practices in the late 19th century. Eakins’ attention to detail is exemplified in both The Gross Clinic (1875) (Fig. 1) and The Agnew Clinic (1889) (Fig. 2).