Throughout its history, Thomas Jefferson University has received more than 500 paintings, sculptures, art works on paper and antique decorative arts. These works are displayed throughout the campus and numerous others are in archival storage. The majority of paintings and sculptures are portraits of Jefferson physicians and administrators, presented either by friends and colleagues of the subjects or by each year's graduating class which honors its most inspiring professor in a tradition dating from 1924.
In 1982 the University established the Eakins Gallery in Alumni Hall to feature three life-size portraits by the late 19th-century Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins of Jefferson physicians—Professors Samuel Gross (The Gross Clinic), Benjamin H. Rand, and William S. Forbes. The Gross Clinic was sold to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in January 2007. The Rand and Forbes portraits were sold in April and June 2007, respectively. Reproductions of all three portraits now hang in the gallery.
The Jefferson collection also includes hundreds of historical medical works unrelated to the university such as paintings, sculptures, medals, and richly illustrated anatomical books and other works on paper. It also includes many non-medical art works such as landscapes, battle scenes, and other figurative works.
Two important examples of the latter can be seen in the Eakins Gallery: Athena/Minerva, a 48 inch, marble sculpture whose torso dates to the 2nd century, A.D. of the Roman imperial period; and Portrait of a Soldier , an oil painting of 1917 by Susan MacDowell Eakins (Mrs. Thomas Eakins), on long-term loan from the French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia. The portrait depicts Julien Lemordant, a famous French painter and World War I soldier, recovering from head wounds which tragically cost him his sight.
Adorn The Halls: History of the Art Collection at Thomas Jefferson University A 725-page medical/art book, published by the University, describes the origins and development of the collection. "ADORN THE HALLS": History of the Art Collection at Thomas Jefferson University was written by Julie S. Berkowitz.
Following a survey of the collection as a whole, 10 chapters trace Jefferson's chronological history in the context of its portraits and other art works which collectively delineate the spirit of the institution. The final two chapters treat non-medical art objects, such as landscapes, and European medicine and its practitioners.