The Agnew Clinic depicts Dr. Agnew performing a partial mastectomy in a medical amphitheater. The work is a prime example of Eakins's scientific realism. The rendering is almost photographically precise - so much so that art historians have been able to identify everyone depicted in the painting, with the exception of the patient.
The Agnew Clinic is one of Eakins's most hotly debated works. His decision to portray a partially nude woman observed by a roomful of men (even though they were doctors) was controversial. It was rejected for exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1891, and at New York's Society of American Artists in 1892. Its exhibition at Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition was criticized.