Sketch for the Agnew Clinic (Primary Title)

Thomas Eakins, American, 1844 - 1916 (Artist)

oil on canvas
Unframed: 10 3/4 × 14 1/2 in. (27.31 × 36.83 cm)
Framed: 19 7/8 × 23 3/4 × 3 in. (50.48 × 60.33 × 7.62 cm)

This sketch is the only complete study for Eakins’s painting The Agnew Clinic, which depicts the highly esteemed University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. David Hayes Agnew (left) lecturing to his class during surgery. He has just performed a mastectomy on the patient’s cancerous left breast. Both the sketch and the painting underscore the artist’s conviction that an understanding of human anatomy is at the core of all figurative art. The patterned masses above Dr. Agnew will become individualized likenesses in the finished painting, but in the sketch their positions suggest the dynamic presence of medical students in rapt attention. The agitated network of thick, boldly applied white lines at lower right substitutes for the patient, while the audience members and the bonneted nurse are recognizable at right.

J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
New Orleans Collects, New Orleans Museum of Art, November 1971–January 1972, no. 143.

Thomas Eakins Centennial Exhibition (1844–1944), Carnegie Institute, Department of Fine Arts, Pittsburgh, April–June 1945, no. 45.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.