Gateway to the polio vaccine
APRIL 9, 2018
I just finished a major commission to paint a 6’ x 7’ portrait of three researchers whose ground-breaking work in the lab was instrumental in manufacturing a vaccine for Polio. Drs. John Enders, Frederick Robbins and Thomas Weller were the first to discover a way to grow the virus in non-neural tissue, i.e. in a test tube, rather than monkey or fetal tissue. That allowed the cultivation of the virus to be done in large quantities more speedily and humanely than before.
I built the composition from the approved sketch by shooting dozens of photos of three friends in lab coats who were kind enough to pose for me. I also borrowed as many beakers, flasks, test tubes, etc. as I could and set them up as close to the sketch as possible. All three men are deceased so it was very difficult to do the faces from reference material that was inconsistent, too grainy, too small, the wrong angle, etc. I did the best I could with what I had to work with.
The painting will be “unveiled” at the Lamar Souter Library of the University of Massachusetts Medical School sometime in the Fall.