Horace G. Smithy (1914-1948)

By G. H. Barnett, 1950 | Oil on canvas, 21 x 7

Horace Gilbert Smithy was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1914. He initially studied medicine at the University of Florida and later at the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1938 and became an intern at Roper Hospital in that same year.

Dr. Smithy remained at the Medical College of South Carolina, eventually becoming Assistant Professor of Surgery, despite his young age. Throughout his short career at the Medical College, Smithy worked tirelessly for a better treatment for valvular heart disease, in particular those diseases caused by rheumatic fever.

To that end Dr. Smithy invented the valvulotome, which was to be inserted into the heart where it would cut out portions of the stenotic valve to improve blood flow. Although Smithy pioneered this surgery with the hope it might someday be used on him to cure his own diseased heart, the surgery was not perfected in time and Dr. Smithy died at the age of 34, in 1948.

Transferred from the Department of Surgery.

Conservation Needs:

Proposed treatment includes removing grime and discolored varnish layers, reducing canvas distortion, revarnishing the portrait, and proper reframing.

Donate to preserve the Horace G. Smithy 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.