Thursday, February 01, 2007

Eakins Aftershocks

To help pay for "The Gross Clinic," the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has apparently sold another Eakins painting, “The Cello Player” (1896). Stephan Salisbury has the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He says the sale of the painting, which was purchased by the academy in 1897 and has been on public view there ever since, "struck members of the city's cultural community with a bittersweet force."

He also has the following quote from Philadelphia resident and Williams College art history professor (and blogger) Michael Lewis: "It's an old established practice that museums can tinker with their collections to improve their collections. In this case, it's trading something from the heart of what they do - American realism. The argument [for the sale] is a little murkier. The net deal is sort of break-even."

I think it's safe to say Lee Rosenbaum disagrees:

"I'm [now] saying that the [Gross Clinic] acquisition is not just a hollow victory; it's a debacle. There is nothing to celebrate in selling one masterpiece (or maybe more) to acquire another one. ... With PAFA's willingness to sacrifice one of its signature paintings by Eakins ... for the sake of acquiring another Eakins that had become a community cause célèbre, we have turned a corner from responsible stewardship of collections to reckless endangerment. ... Museums hold their works in trust of the public. PAFA has now failed the public trust."

Tyler Green was first on the scene yesterday. Carol Vogel has a report in the New York Times this morning.