William Cullen (1710-1790)

By Artist unknown, date unknown, | Oil on canvas, 32 x 27

William Cullen was a Scottish physician at the Edinburgh Medical School during its heyday as the leading center of medical education in the English-speaking world. In 1755 he became Professor of Chemistry and Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where in 1756 he gave his first documented public demonstration of artificial refrigeration.

Famous for his teaching methods, Dr. Cullen was among the first to teach in English, rather than Latin, and delivered clinical lectures from his own notes rather than from another’s text. Dr. Cullen was professor and mentor to numerous medical luminaries including the “Father of American Medicine” Benjamin Rush.

Charleston physicians educated at Edinburgh between 1756 and 1790 would certainly have known him and been influenced by him. Indeed many early South Carolina physicians dedicated their medical dissertations to Dr. Cullen.

Conservation Needs:

Proposed treatment includes removing grime and discolored varnish, consolidating areas of lifting or fragile paint, filling losses (as needed), reducing canvas distortion, revarnishing surface, and proper reframing.

Frame requires repair and cleaning, filling and consolidation of gesso, removal of overpaint, and surface toning.

Donate to preserve the William Cullen portrait »


The goal for the project is $150,000 which will pay for all the work to conserve these visual treasures. The cost for each portrait’s conservation ranges from $1,200 to $15,000.

This cost includes the conservation/ treatment report, conservation of the canvas and frame, and any costs associated with the treatment such as curatorial research and documentation, photography, transportation, and insurance.

Donor Recognition

Donors who adopt a portrait will receive named recognition during the portraits absence in the form of a sign reading, “Portrait being conserved through the generous support of [your name].”

When the portrait is returned a celebratory reception will be held at which the donor will be honored for his or her support of the project. Finally, the finished portrait will be reinstalled in the Waring with a permanent sign reading, “This portrait was conserved in [year] by the generous support of [your name].”

As a thank you gift, donors will be offered a reproduction of their “adopted” portrait, printed on canvas and suitable for framing.

Project Kick-Off

In order to kick-start the project, the WLS sent the portrait of Alexander Baron off for conservation.

Dr. Baron was selected for two reasons: first, the sitter, Dr. Baron, was a founding member of the Medical Society of South Carolina, whose generous support of the Waring has enabled us to conserve and digitize numerous items from the collection.

Second, the artist of the portrait was Samuel B. Morse, whose portraiture career in Charleston included painting the city’s leaders.