Philadelphia is still steamed about the impending sale of Thomas Eikens' The Gross Clinic (1875)--and the city isn't any closer to raising the $68 million it needs to prevent the painting from being sold to Alice L. Walton, who is building a museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Philadelphia Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski argues that Thomas Jefferson University has the legal right to sell the painting, and Alice Walton is no different than any nineteenth-century robber baron assembling an art collection for public appreciation and private glory. The problem is that Jefferson's shadowy deal with the Wal-Mart heiress and the National Gallery means that Philadelphia's most famous artwork will be gathering mildew in the Ozarks from now on. He writes,
The Gross Clinic portrays a respected Jefferson surgeon performing an operation at the university. It was painted by a Philadelphia artist who actually studied anatomy at the college. An artwork couldn't be more tightly contextual than that. Even if most residents didn't know about it, it is the greatest Philadelphia painting. The Gross Clinic should hang either at the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Or perhaps at both on a rotating basis.
Philadelphia now has four weeks to raise Wal-Mart money, or The Gross Clinic is off to Bentonville, the sage and daring Dr. Gross replaced by an army of distracted specialists in lab coats keeping to their eight minutes per patient schedules.