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

us swan-necked flask, and Walter Reed treating yellow fever in a battlefield tent.

This quest for historical accuracy in paintings that served as pharmaceutical company advertisements was a reflection of Thom's times, and holds lessons for today, says a U-M Medical School psychiatrist and historian who has written two papers on the paintings and co-curated the 2000 exhibition.

"The Thom paintings represent an important chapter in American pharmaceutical advertising," says Jonathan Metzl, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U-M Program in Culture, Health, and Medicine. "The images do not mention specific medications by name, but instead seek to create a specific aura by tying the company's name to depictions of great medical advances, Parke-Davis sought to enhance the image of the pharmaceutical industry at a time when it was much less powerful than it is today."

Metzl, an expert on the history of pharmaceutical company advertising, published articles on the Thom paintings in Academic Medicine in 2004, and in Literature and Medicine in Fall, 2006, together with Joel Howell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U-M Program in Society and Medicine. Metzl accessed Thom's research notes for both series of paintings, and spoke extensively with surviving family members including Thom's son.

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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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