Robert Wilson (1867-1946)

By Jean Robinson, 1917 | Oil on canvas, 37 ½ x 33

Robert Wilson was born in Statesburg, South Carolina to Dr. Rev. Robert Wilson, a trained physician who left medicine after serving as a surgeon in the Civil War. Raised in Easton, Maryland where his father served as rector in an Episcopal church, young Robert came to Charleston in 1884 to attend the College of Charleston; he later earned his Bachelor’s at South Carolina College in 1887. He graduated from the Medical College of the State of South Carolina in 1892 and began his teaching career at the Medical College as Adjunct Professor of Bacteriology from 1901 to 1903.

Dr. Wilson was the first bacteriologist in the City of Charleston, championing the germ theory, which was still skeptically received by older physicians. In 1904 he was appointed to Professor of Medicine and in 1908 was appointed Dean of the Medical College of the State of South Carolina, a position he held until 1943. He is most noted for saving the Medical College from closure as recommended in the 1910 “Flexner Report.” Dr. Wilson died in Charleston on May 20, 1946.

Presented by the Faculty of the Medical College of the State of South Carolina in 1917.

Conservation Needs:

Proposed treatment includes removing grime and discolored varnish layers, filling in paint losses and abrasions, reducing canvas distortion, revarnishing and reframing.

Frame requires surface cleaning, consolidation of gesso, toning with bronzed finish to match original surface.

Donate to preserve the Robert Wilson 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.