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Art, Artists, Art Galleries, and Studios in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Treasures Eakins’s Gross Clinic and Saint-Gaudens’s Angel of Purity
August 2, 2008 - February 2009
The Museum welcomes two masterpieces made for Philadelphia by two of nineteenth-century America’s finest artists, Thomas Eakins and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Close contemporaries and friends, they both trained in Paris and traveled in Europe before returning to the United States about 1870 to begin distinguished careers. Sharing a belief in the expressive power of the human body as a subject for modern painting and sculpture, they developed different styles.
Saint-Gaudens’s Angel of Purity
Eakins, committed to the depiction of contemporary life, celebrated the heroes of his own day—as in The Gross Clinic—in a grand and unsparing realism evoking the Dutch and Spanish masters of the seventeenth century. Saint-Gaudens, trained in the same tradition of naturalism and life study, fused the real with the ideal—as in The Angel of Purity—following the poetic spirit of neoclassicism. At the peak of their accomplishment in these two works, both masters demonstrate the power of great public art to stir profound and complex emotions grounded in themes of human life and death.
Installed in public spaces in Philadelphia for more than a century, these two extraordinary works of art will continue to inspire audiences here, thanks to the support of many donors rallied by the Museum’s dedicated director, Anne d’Harnoncourt (1943–2008), who worked tirelessly to secure both treasures for the city.
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