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15 Scandalous Facts About Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic

American realist Thomas Eakins earned renown for portraits so true to life they could almost be mistaken for photographs. But his greatest accomplishment was also his most controversial, 1875's The Gross Clinic

1. IT PAYS TRIBUTE TO AN ADMIRED PHILADELPHIAN. 

Eakins was a proud native of Philadelphia, and often drew inspiration from the city’s settings and inhabitants. As part of this trend, Eakins created The Gross Clinic to honor the achievements of lauded local surgeon Dr. Samuel D. Gross

2. IT DEPICTS GROSS IN HIS NORMAL ENVIRONMENT. 

The Gross Clinic is set within Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College, where Gross graduated in 1828 and later returned as a professor in 1856. During his tenure at Jefferson, he became the 20th president of the American Medical Association, and founded both the American Surgical Association and the Pathological Society of Philadelphia. 

3. EAKINS MAY HAVE FOUND INSPIRATION IN REMBRANDT. 

The Dutch master's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulps is not only similar in its depiction of a surgery lecture but also in its true focus being not the medical event itself but the people in attendance. A skilled portraitist, Eakins took great care to carefully capture the surgeons, students, spectators, and Gross down to the finest details.  

4. EVEN SO, EAKINS BROKE FROM OTHER SURGICAL PAINTERS IN A MAJOR WAY. 

Rembrandt and others who came before had depicted doctors working on cadavers. Few dared to portray the act of surgery on a live patient as Eakins does here. 

5. IT'S ALSO A SNEAKY SELF-PORTRAIT.

If you look closely on the painting's right hand side, you'll see a man in the dark balcony, observing intently as he scribbles in a notebook. This is Eakins, inserting a cameo into his greatest work. 

6. IT'S ONE OF EAKINS'S LARGEST PAINTINGS. 

The Gross Clinic measures in at 8 feet by 6 feet, 6 inches. 

7. EARLY RESTORATIONS NEARLY RUINED IT. 

In 1929, Susan Eakins, the artist's widow, penned an angry letter complaining of the "fancy red light" a restoration had added to The Gross Clinic. But things got worse in 1940 when restorer Hannah Mee Horner glued a plywood backing onto the canvas. Because of the painting's size, Horner used two separate pieces of plywood. Over the years, the flexing and warping of these two separate bits of wood began to stress the painting along the seam, threatening to tear it in two. Thankfully later restorations undid Horner's horrendous missteps and removed the colored varnish Mrs. Eakins had loathed.

8. IT WAS NOT A COMMISSION.

Considering its prestigious subject and its stately setting, one might well assume Eakins was asked to create The Gross Clinic, but it was a product of Eakins following his inspiration. Since he didn’t have to answer to a client, Eakins was free to embrace his evolving form of "scientific realism," which turned out to be a real risk.  

9. EAKINS HAD HIGH HOPES FOR THE GROSS CLINIC. 

Even though the painting didn’t have a definite buyer, Eakins poured himself into the work. He spent a year on the painting, even prepping with six small portraits of Gross and an oil sketch of the final scene. In a letter dated April 1875, Eakins wrote to his friend Earl Shinn about the in-the-works painting, declaring, "What elates me more is that I have just got a new picture blocked in and it is very far better than anything I have ever done. As I spoil things less and less in finishing I have the greatest hopes of this one." Specifically, Eakins hoped he could unveil the painting at the city's spectacular 1876 Centennial Exhibition

10. THE GROSS CLINIC WAS DENIED ITS INTENDED DEBUT.

The selection committee for the Centennial Exhibition’s art show rejected the piece, forcing Eakins to premiere it in a less prestigious setting on the exhibit’s grounds, a reconstruction of a U.S. Army Post Hospital. Rather than appearing in a gallery, the painting for which Eakins had such ambitious hopes hung in an area devoted to displaying medical furniture

11. MEANWHILE, THE ARTIST'S CHESS PLAYERS WAS ACCEPTED.

The oil painting portraying three men hovered over a chessboard in a posh setting was proudly displayed at the Centennial Exhibition, where it won much praise. Today it hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

12. CRITICS LOATHED AND LOVED THE GROSS CLINIC.

Detractors criticized the piece for sensationalizing an already grisly subject matter. But this outrage was in part because of its location in a busy exhibition. The New York Tribune wrote of it, "One of the most powerful, horrible, yet fascinating pictures that has been painted anywhere in this century ... but the more one praises it, the more one must condemn its admission to a gallery where men and women of weak nerves must be compelled to look at it, for not to look at it is impossible." 

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph declared, "There is nothing so fine in the American section of the Art Department of the Exhibition and it is a great pity that the squeamishness of the Selection Committee compelled the artist to find a place in the United States Hospital Building." 

13. SIMILAR OUTCRY AROSE YEARS LATER OVER THE AGNEW CLINIC.

A follow-up of sorts, the 1889 piece depicted surgeon David Hayes Agnew overseeing a partial mastectomy in a medical amphitheater. It was denied a spot in 1891's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and 1892's New York's Society of American Artists before being accepted to 1893's World's Columbian Exposition, where it was criticized for its graphic depiction of surgery and female nudity. (One art critic warned that “delicate or sensitive women or children suddenly confronted by the portrayal of these clinical horrors might receive a shock from which they would never recover.”)

14. JEFFERSON MEDICAL COLLEGE WAS QUICK TO CLAIM THE GROSS CLINIC

The Gross Clinic did not have to linger long in the U.S. Army Post Hospital. Alumni of the college it depicts acquired the piece for $200 and gifted it to the Jefferson Medical College. For more than 131 years, the polarizing portrait was a proud part of the school's collection. In 2006, a reproduction took its place when the board voted to sell Eakins' masterpiece for $68 million, sparking a citywide controversy in Philadelphia.

15. A BATTLE BEGAN TO KEEP THE PAINTING IN PHILADELPHIA.

To boost its fundraising efforts, Thomas Jefferson University—which houses Jefferson Medical College—made plans to sell the piece to such far flung institutions as the National Gallery of Art in Washington or the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Outrage from the local art community spurred the University to allow 45 days for a Philadelphia museum or organization to match their asking price. 

The going was slow at first, but amid public outcry the deadline was extended. The Philadelphia Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts teamed up to raise enough money to keep The Gross Clinic in the City of Brotherly Love. Funds were borrowed, and paintings from both art collections were sold, including Eakins' The Cello Player and Cowboy Singing. Finally, in April 2008, the joint effort officially secured The Gross Clinic's place in Philadelphia, where it had long been a part of the city’s history and culture.

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King Features Syndicate
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Comics
10 Things You Might Not Know About Hägar the Horrible
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For 45 years, the anachronistic adventures of a Scandinavian Viking named Hägar have populated the funny papers. Created by cartoonist Dik Browne, Hagar the Horrible is less about raiding and pillaging and more about Hägar’s domestic squabbles with wife Helga. If you’re a fan of this red-bearded savage with a surprisingly gentle demeanor, check out some facts about the strip’s history, Hägar’s status as a soda pitchman, and his stint as a college football mascot.

1. HÄGAR IS NAMED AFTER HIS CREATOR.

Richard Arthur “Dik” Browne got his start drawing courtroom sketches for New York newspapers; he debuted a military strip, Ginny Jeep, for servicemen after entering the Army in 1942. Following an advertising stint where he created the Chiquita Banana logo, he was asked to tackle art duties on the 1954 Beetle Bailey spinoff strip Hi and Lois. When he felt an urge to create his own strip in 1973, Browne thought back to how his children called him “Hägar the Horrible” when he would playfully chase them around the house. “Immediately, I thought Viking,” he told People in 1978. Hägar was soon the fastest-growing strip in history, appearing over 1000 papers.

2. HE COULD HAVE BEEN BULBAR THE BARBARIAN.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Working on Hi and Lois with cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) gave Browne an opportunity to solicit advice on Hägar from his more experienced colleague. As Walker recalled, he thought “Hägar” would be too hard for people to pronounce or spell and suggested Browne go with “Bulbar the Barbarian” instead. Browne brushed off the suggestion, preferring his own alliterative title.

3. A HEART ATTACK COULD HAVE CHANGED HÄGAR’S FATE.

When Browne came up with Hägar, he sent it along to a syndicate editor he knew from his work on Hi and Lois. According to Chris Browne, Dik’s son and the eventual artist for Hägar after his father passed away in 1989, the man originally promised to look at it after he got back from his vacation. He changed his mind at the last minute, reviewing and accepting the strip before leaving. Just days later, while on his ski vacation, the editor had a heart attack and died. If he hadn’t approved the strip prior to his passing, Browne said, Hägar may never have seen print.

4. THE STRIP HELPED BROWNE AVOID VANDALS.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Chris Browne recalled that Halloween in his Connecticut neighborhood was a time for kids to show their appreciation for his father’s work. While trick-or-treaters were busy covering nearby houses in toilet paper or spray paint, they spared the Browne residence. The only evidence of their vandalism was a spray-painted sign that read, “Mr. Browne, We Love Hägar.”

5. BROWNE’S DAUGHTER TALKED HIM OUT OF KIDNAPPING PLOTS.

Vikings were not known for being advocates for human rights. Hägar, despite his relatively genteel persona, still exhibited some barbaric traits, such as running off with “maidens” after a plundering session. Speaking with the Associated Press in 1983, Browne admitted he toned down the more lecherous side of Hägar after getting complaints from his daughter. “Running off with a maiden isn’t funny,” she told him. “It’s a crime.”

6. HÄGAR ENDORSED SODA.

A soda can featuring Hägar the Horrible
Amazon

Despite his preference for alcohol, Hägar apparently had a bit of a sweet tooth as well. In the 1970s, King Features licensed out a line of soda cans featuring some of their most popular comic strip characters, including Popeye, Blondie, and Hägar. The Viking also shilled for Mug Root Beer in the 1990s.

7. HE WAS A COLLEGE MASCOT.

In 1965, Cleveland State University students voted in the name “Vikings” for their collegiate basketball team. After using a mascot dubbed Viktorious Vike, the school adopted Hägar in the 1980s. Both Hägar and wife Helga appeared at several of the school’s sporting events before being replaced by an original character named Vike.

8. HE EVENTUALLY SOBERED UP.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

When Dik Browne was working on Hägar, the Viking was prone to bouts of excessive drinking. When Chris Browne took over the strip, he made a deliberate decision to minimize Hägar’s imbibing. "When my father was doing the strip, he did an awful lot of gags about Hägar falling down drunk and coming home in a wheelbarrow, and as times go on that doesn't strike me as that funny anymore,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. “Just about everybody I know has had somebody hurt by alcoholism or substance abuse.”

9. HE HAD HIS OWN HANNA-BARBERA CARTOON.

It took some time, but Hägar was finally honored with the animated special treatment in 1989. Cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera created the 30-minute special, Hägar the Horrible: Hägar Knows Best, and cast the Viking as being out of his element after returning home for the first time in years. The voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, performed the title character. It was later released on DVD as part of a comic strip cartoon collection.

10. HE SAILED INTO THE WIZARD OF ID.

A Wizard of Id comic strip
King Features Syndicate

In 2014, Hägar made an appearance in the late Johnny Hart’s Wizard of Id comic strip, with the two characters looking confused at the idea they’ve run into one another at sea. Hägar also made a cameo in Blondie to celebrate that character’s 75th birthday in 2005.

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Pop Chart Lab
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infographics
Every Emoji Ever, Arranged by Color
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

What lies at the end of the emoji rainbow? It's not a pot of gold, but rather an exclamation point—a fitting way to round out the Every Emoji Ever print created by the design experts over at Pop Chart Lab.

As the name suggests, every emoji that's currently used in version 10.0.0 of Unicode is represented, which, if you're keeping track, is nearly 2400.

Each emoji was painstakingly hand-illustrated and arranged chromatically, starting with yellow and ending in white. Unicode was most recently updated last summer, with 56 emojis added to the family. Some of the newest members of the emoji clan include a mermaid, a couple of dinosaurs, a UFO, and a Chinese takeout box. However, the most popular emoji last year was the "despairing crying face." Make of that what you will.

Past posters from Pop Chart Lab have depicted the instruments played in every Beatles song, every bird species in North America, and magical objects of the wizarding world. The price of the Every Emoji Ever poster starts at $29, and if you're interested, the piece can be purchased here.

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