Robert Thom was an illustrator who brought a Rockwellian sensitivity to scenes from the history medicine and pharmacy. The two thematic collections were commissioned by Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Company.
His craft was perfected as a commercial illustrator for General Motors and Detroit Edison prior to an independent career beginning in 1945.
Medcine and Pharmacy Series
Many of his works are on display at museums and the White House. The series of 45 paintings devoted to medicine is now archived at the University of Michigan and the series of 40 paintings devoted to pharmacy said to be archived at Loma Linda University.
The Michigan Medicine article announcing the gift to the University of Michigan Museum of Art explained,
“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...”
Pfizer made the gift to the University of Michigan, having acquired the paintings when it bought Warner-Lambert, which in turn had purchased Parke-Davis, which at the time was the largest drug company in America and headquartered in Ann Arbor MI, the site of the Medical School.
Jonathan Metzel MD, PhD, Director of their Program in Culture, Health, and Medicine, has written about the paintings in Literature and Medicine.
Where to See
Here’s how to view the collections. I could not find a link at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, but the medical collection is on display at Imgur, complete with annotations from the related book Great Moments in Medicine (text by George Bender).
Nor could I find an link at Loma Linda University, but the pharmacy collection can be seen on the archival site celebrating pharmacist Carl F. Hanneman:
“During his nearly six decades as a pharmacist, Carl F. Hanneman got to know a lot of people. He forged good relationships with the many sales reps who called on him at the Mauston Drug Store. Some came to dinner at the Hanneman home, and a few even stayed at the house while in town. One of the long-lasting perks he received from Parke, Davis and Company was a stunning set of lithographs depicting the history of pharmacy. More than 30 prints still exist from Carl’s 1950s collection.”
Some of the prints can be had at a reasonable price from art.com.