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

among everyday Americans, too. The oil paintings toured the U.S. and Canada, appearing in Parke-Davis-sponsored shows at medical conferences and other events.

Some of the Thom medical history paintings have recently been exhibited in Michigan as part of larger installations, including 15 that were displayed in 2000 at UMMA in the exhibition Seeing is Healing? The Visual Arts of Medicine in honor of the U-M Medical School's 150th anniversary. Three were included in a 2003 exhibit at the Birmingham Historical Museum, in Birmingham, Mich., near where Thom lived at the time of the original commission. But now that all the medical paintings are part of U-M's collections, they can be exhibited in larger numbers. Specific plans for their display within U-M hospitals, clinical and research buildings will be announced at a later date.

Robert Thom was born in 1915 in Grand Rapids, Mich., and spent much of his adult life in metropolitan Detroit. He and his wife died in 1979 in a car accident in Alma, Mich., while visiting the state from their new home in Dallas.

His style of painting was based in the same American realist and pictorial tradition as Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth. Though not as well known as those artists, Thom was commissioned often, including a History of Michigan series for Michigan Bell Telephone. The medicine series followed immediately on the heels of Thom's first Parke-Davis commission, of a series of 40 paintings illustrating the history of pharmacy that Pfizer recently gave to the American Pharmacists Association Foundation.

Each of his medical history works is a kind of "still life of discovery," capturing a significant occasion and depicting either a famous medical scientist in action or a scene of healing from a particular time and place. Among the subjects are Andreas Vesalius demonstrating human anatomy, Ignaz Semmelweis convincing doctors to wash their hands before delivering babies, Louis Pasteur examining his famo
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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