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“Gross Clinic” Disposals: Why is this “Cowboy Singing”?

Sold by Philadelphia Museum:
Thomas Eakins, “Cowboy Singing,” 1892

Kept by Philadelphia Museum:
Thomas Eakins, “Home Ranch,” 1892

Just when I had decided I wasn’t going to rush to comment about the Philadelphia Museum’s Eakins disposals that have raised the last of the funds needed to help defray its $34-million half-share of the purchase price for “The Gross Clinic,” WHYY, Philadelphia Public Radio, called me up for analysis.

I guess they couldn’t find anyone locally to speak out against what seems, on the face of it, to be a good “exchange” for the artist’s masterpiece: the sale to the Denver Art Museum and the Anschutz Collection of three quasi-duplicates from Philadelphia’s Eakins collection—“Cowboy, Singing,” above, which is similar in subject matter and identical in size and date to the museum’s “Home Ranch” (also above); and two of five Philadelphia-owned sketches for another painting, “Cowboys in the Badlands.”

The audio link isn’t up yet, and I don’t yet know which of my comments they used for yesterday’s segment. I began the interview by saying that the museum had done something that I deemed inappropriate, but in the most responsible way possible under the circumstances. Nevertheless, regular CultureGrrl readers have probably already surmised that I have strong misgivings about what’s been done, which I will detail later, after I can give you the audio link.

Meanwhile, here are the links to the Denver Art Museum’s press release about its Eakins half-acquisition; the Denver Post‘s article; and the estimable Edward Sozanski‘s detailed post mortem for today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. (I gave you the link for the Philadelphia Museum’s press release yesterday, but here it is again.)

Carol Vogel tells us in today’s NY Times that Marc Porter, president of Christie’s, “advised the Philadelphia Museum about public institutions looking for an Eakins.” What she didn’t mention was that Porter had also been Thomas Jefferson University’s advisor in tentatively arranging the sale of “The Gross Clinic” to the National Gallery in Washington and Alice Walton‘s Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. That deal allowed the Philadelphia buyers  (which also included the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) to preempt the sale.

an ArtsJournal blog