The NY Times ran a good article on what the restored painting and its exhibit are like -
Deft Surgery for a Painting Under the Scalpel
By KAREN ROSENBERG
Published: July 29, 2010
An exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows Thomas Eakins’s “Gross Clinic,” an 1875 masterpiece that has recently been restored.
In the article, Rosenberg discusses the paintings history especially the initial public hanging of it:
The current show’s first gallery contains photographs and ephemera from the Centennial Exhibition, a world’s fair that included the first historical survey of American art. Much of this material is filler. (Do we really need to see the shareholders’ certificate or Eakins’s exhibitor’s pass?) More to the point are the interior shots of the exhibition sites, which show how “The Gross Clinic” made its debut.
The selection committee found the painting too visceral for the main art show, a stuffy, salon-style affair in Memorial Hall, but with help from Dr. Gross, Eakins was able to display it in a model Army-post hospital elsewhere on the fairgrounds. Photographs show “The Gross Clinic” prominently featured at the end of a long row of beds, framed by dark curtains.
Here's a photograph of that "model Army-post hospital" which featured exhibits on military medicine, and was partially curated by Dr. J.J. Woodward.
1876 Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, Army Medical Department Exhibit - 001 Hospital front view
1876 Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, Army Medical Department Exhibit - 005 Hospital ward 1 from southern end. [Note the beds with mosquito netting, the enlargements of photomicrographs on the side walls and especially The Gross Clinic painting by Thomas Eakins on the far wall.