Dr. Mark Tucker, head of painting conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will present a lecture, “Conservation of an American Masterpiece, The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins,” Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 5:30 p.m. at the Paul R. Jones Art Gallery, 2308 Sixth Street, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Tucker, an expert on Eakins and Vice-Chairman of Conservation, led the conservation project, and will speak on the historical and technical research upon which it was based, and the aims, challenges, and results of this landmark restoration.
In late 1875 Thomas Eakins, just 31 years old, completed his monumental painting, Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic.) An object of both awestruck admiration and revulsion among critics of the time, the painting has long since been celebrated as an absolute masterpiece, acclaimed, for example, by Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times in 2002 as, “hands down, the finest 19th-century American painting.”
Acquired in 2007 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the painting was examined in detail in 2008-2009, and in 2010 it was cleaned and restored for the first time in almost fifty years. The conservation treatment restored important aspects of original appearance altered by aggressive cleanings of the 1920s and 1940s. Eakins’s imposing masterpiece now looks more as it did in his day than it has at any time since the early 1920s.
Mark Tucker is The Aronson Senior Conservator of Paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA.) With an undergraduate background in figurative drawing, painting, and printmaking, art history, and chemistry, he received his B.A. in Studio Art from the University of California at Davis and his M.A. in Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works from the State University of New York Cooperstown Graduate Program. Mr. Tucker and his staff are responsible for the preservation and restoration of the PMA’s collections of paintings from the 12th century to the present, and for the technical and historical research on which conservation practice is based. He has published and lectured extensively on topics in conservation and art history. With Kathleen Foster, The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mr. Tucker co-curated the 2010 exhibition, “An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing The Gross Clinic Anew,” setting the newly restored painting within the context of other select works by Eakins and information about its history, aesthetics, technique, condition, and conservation treatment.
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