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Thomas Eakins would have made such a fine surgeon. As we all know, he ended up becoming a great artist instead.

Now, I’m not exactly complaining. Perhaps it may be a little bit of a lament, considering his firm grasp on anatomy and how it could have been put to other uses. Again — he would have made an excellent surgeon. He could have made discoveries. He would have saved lives. But he decided to immortalize the images of faces.

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead of cutting living flesh to mend it, he carved the dead to learn about the body (and to teach others) so it could be portrayed realistically and believably in art. Now, his unabashed, unflinching realism was ground-breaking. And I do like his art very much. The Gross Clinic and The Writing Master rank among my all-time favorite paintings, regardless of artist. But still part of me wonders… what if he had kept up with the medical education instead? He most likely would have made as strong a mark in the medical field as he did with art. And probably minus the rejections, the insults, the poor reviews, the dissatisfied patrons (he’d have sulky patients instead). Would it have been an easier life for him? A more fulfilling life? Did he regret his decision?

Of course, I simply cannot say. At least I am happy with the paintings, which would not have been created had he kept up with surgery. So am I complaining? Absolutely not. Contemplating? Yes.

When considering people of multiple talents, it is interesting to see which path a person decides to choose. It may be a disappointment to others. It may be what everyone expected all along. And it also may be unforeseen by all. 

"The Gross Clinic" by Thomas Eakins ...

“The Gross Clinic” by Thomas Eakins on display in Ward One of the U.S. Army Post Hospital, 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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