The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
When Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) painted Portrait of
Dr Albert C. Getchell (cover ) in 1907,
he was 63, Getchell, 50. It was one of some 145 portraits he did in a similar,
almost formulaic style, beginning in 1870 and continuing through 1910. In
what biographer Lloyd Goodrich (Thomas Eakins. Cambridge,
Mass: Harvard University Press; 1982) calls almost an "obsession," well over
half of them were painted in only a 10-year period, 1900 to 1910. Thus, Getchell's
portrait comes late in the series. So-called head and bust portraits, they
were of medium size (usually 24 by 20 inches), had plain (or empty) backgrounds,
and pictured head and shoulders only. Absent were any objects that might link
the subject to a profession or otherwise elucidate his background or his interests.
Notable, for paintings intended to be character studies, is the omission of
hands. In Getchell's case, such an omission is almost ironic, for he was a
physician, a prominent otorhinolaryngologist who practiced in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Southgate MT. Portrait of Dr Albert C. Getchell. JAMA. 2002;288(12):1443. doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1443