On November 14, 2019 Guthrie celebrated the 75th anniversary of the gift of “The Doctor”. The painting was cleaned and restored for the event. The painting was used during the anniversary year as a focal point, engaging physicians and other providers in discussions on the art of compassion in the practice of medicine. The following is an account of the original unveiling ceremony in 1944.
Bradford county’s famous Guthrie Clinic at Sayre proudly displayed the original of one of the world’s best-known paintings, “The Doctor” by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes. Presented to the Clinic by Allan Kirby, son of the late F. M. Kirby, well known philanthropist, and former trustee of the Robert Packer Hospital, the painting was formally unveiled Tuesday evening November 16, 1944 in the presence of 60 people.
“The Doctor” was given a prominent place on the wall of the foyer of the Clinic (this area is now at the top of the Sumner lobby stairs outside the administrative offices) at the right of the entrance. Art experts from the Newhouse Galleries in New York supervised the hanging and lighting.
Remarks by Dr. Donald Guthrie surgeon-in-chief of the hospital for whom the clinic was named. He spoke concerning the donor and Carl V. Patterson of Towanda, a trustee of the hospital gave a very interesting history of the picture and story of the life of the artist. The unveiling was by William Jewell, trustee of the hospital and general manager of the Ingersoll-Rand of Athens.
The Rev. Glen Walter of Sayre read a letter from Mr. Kirby in which the latter expressed his regret at being unable to be present and spoke of his interest in the clinic and in Dr. Guthrie personally, he had known the famous surgeon since they played together as boys in Wilkes-Barre.
Supt. Howard E. Bishop of the hospital turned on the lights as the veil was drawn away and the effect was very striking indeed.
Among those witnessing the ceremony were the directors and officials of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, trustees and medical staff of the hospital; Albert N. Williams, former Lehigh president who was then president of the Western Union; Paul Bedford of Wilkes-Barre, trustee of Princeton university; Thomas H. McInerny of Greenwich, CT, founder of the board of National Dairy Products; Col. E. G. Smith, publisher of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader; Con McCole, Mayor of Wilkes-Barre; C. A. Kirk of Endicott, vice president of International Business Machines; Colby M. Chester of New York, chairman f the American Red Cross and chairman of the board of General Foods and Samuel F. Pryor, vice president of Pan-American Airways, Mr. Pryor flew from Washington D.C. to see the unveiling.
The distinguished visitors to Sayre were guests of Dr. Guthrie at his home following the ceremony.
Never on the market until Mr. Kirby was able to obtain it recently, the painting is the original study for the large painting which is in the Tate Gallery in London England, which was described by Sir Charles Holroyd, Keeper of the Gallery, as one of three pictures that probably took precedence in the public favor, a triumph of the painters art, and takes rank among the world’s great modern paintings.
In “Great Works of Art and What Makes Them Great”, F. W. Ruckstull wrote: “When this truly modern picture, “The Doctor” was painted, Luke Fildes worked better than he knew. It is one of the most universally popular pictures painted in the latter half of the 19th century. Thousands of reproductions have been sold, in all parts of the world, engravings large and small, plain and colored photographs of all sizes, in fact every kind of known translation.”
Sir Samuel Luke Fildes, born in Liverpool England, in 1844, began his studies in the schools of South Kensington, and later entered the Royal Academy, to which he was elected in 1879. He produced drawings on wood for many periodicals and was selected to illustrate the last books of Charles Dickens and Lever.
His name appears in the catalogs of the Royal Academy for the first time in 1868, and thereafter he exhibited many paintings there. His work was also seen at the Paris Exposition in 1878, and at the Philadelphia Exposition two years before. Paintings by Fildes are also in the museums of Hamburg, Liverpool and Warrington. He produced a command portrait of King Edward VII which hung in the Royal Academy in 1902. Fildes died in London in 1927.
The doctor depicted in “The Doctor” was Sir James Clark, physician to Prince Leopold, afterwards King of the Belgians, and physician to the Duchess of Kent and Queen Victoria, who knighted him in October 1837. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1832, and served on several royal commissions, on the senate of London university, and the general medicine council. He was made Knight Commander of the Bath in 1866. Sir James was also the author of many treatises.
Fildes painted Sir James because he was known for his faithful care of his patients. The picture of “The Doctor” was a long time in preparation and for several months the great studio in Melbury Road was witness to the painter’s project. After many studies, Mr. Fildes had the interior of the cottage erected inside his own studio. This was carefully planned and properly built with rafters and walls and windows.
Alan Kirby, who lived in New York, carried on his father’s tradition of philanthropy. He had presented many gifts to Lafayette college and elsewhere. His father who began his merchandising career with Frank W. Woolworth and later established his own chain, eventually joined with the Woolworths and founded a great fortune, with interests in banks, insurance companies, railroads, utility corporations and before his death ranked as one of the great financiers of America.
Mr. Kirby was a director of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, a trustee of Lafayette College, and a director of the Robert Packer Hospital. He showed warm interest in subscribing generously to the nurses’ home in outfitting its library and in giving a large collection of rugs which furnished the private rooms for the hospital and the rooms of the clinic.
He gave $50,000 to the hospital for an operating room suite. He donated large amounts of money to various colleges, especially to Lafayette, where he established the chair of civil rights, and erected a beautiful building to house the department.
The Kirby Health Center in Wilkes-Barre was given in memory of his mother. As a matter of fact, he gave most of his fortune away to charitable institutions and colleges.
It was a most unusual thing that this great man who gave millions to his fellow men should have a son who had the same warm generous impulses of his father, and the communities and those from distant places who come to the doors of the Guthrie Clinic will be forever in his debt.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current trustee of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.