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A Major Gift of Art and History: U-M Receives 45 Significant Medical Paintings From Pfizer
Date:11/30/2007

ess significant for this. They speak powerfully to how all art is shaped by its historical context, and do so in ways that offer tremendous interest for viewers and scholars in the twenty-first century."

A second gift to U-M, from Al and Colette Kessel, will fund the hanging of the paintings around the U-M medical campus. The Kessels share Dr. Kelch's love of art, and wanted to help realize his goal of making the Thom paintings available to the public.

The 45 works, all oil on masonite, range in size up to five feet wide or tall. Thom researched each one meticulously before painting, and traveled to many of the sites depicted. He aimed to show scientific and cultural details as accurately as possible, according to the historical and anthropological knowledge of his day. It is estimated that Thom traveled nearly 250,000 miles through North America and Europe during his research for the series, studying artifacts and locations intently.

Thom's subjects range from the ancient Greek temples of Asclepius, the demigod of medicine, to the first use of a smallpox vaccine by Edward Jenner, to the founding of the American Medical Association, and the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Roentgen.

His commission came from Parke-Davis & Co., which at the time was the largest pharmaceutical firm in the country and had its research headquarters in Ann Arbor near U-M. Pfizer acquired the paintings in 2000 as part of its acquisition of Warner-Lambert, which had acquired Parke-Davis in 1970.

The series was formally titled A History of Medicine in Pictures, and many of the paintings were published as individual plates in magazines, as lithographs, and in book form as Great Moments in Medicine, with text by George Bender describing the story behind each painting. A full-length movie explored the "story behind the story" of the paintings.

The book and prints became a kind of "Rosetta stone" for generations of doctors, and were well known
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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