Henry T. Cariss

It has become my habit, rather I have been cleverly manipulated, into composing a short column for the Portfolio in which I tell about one of our Club’s prestigious past members. This month I was to write a little bit about Henry T. Cariss. Despite my research, I never learn what middle name that “T” stands for. What I did learn is that the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution hold copies of some papers relating to Henry, our native son. In 1992, the Smithsonian Institution borrowed this material from our own eminent Bill Patterson Number One (there now being a Number Two as well, often found eating in the rathskeller). Bill received the papers from the family of Henry’s only son. I can shirk work as quickly as the next member, and, so, this month will permit our President to tell us of Henry. In Bill’s own words:

“Henry T. Cariss (1850-1903) is the bald gentleman whose portrait looks down at you as you enter the Pool Room from the Library. The placement of his portrait in an important position next to George F. Bensell, the Club’s first
President, is probably no accident. The Club’s history from the 1880s reveals the following on Cariss. ‘.Cariss, in his early thirties, was a most popular member of the Club, with a good singing voice, which he was always ready and willing to inflict on social gatherings. He was a painter of some reputation, with a fondness for historical subjects. He was first elected President on January 4, 1883, and served the members faithfully and well in that office for five consecutive years.’ Prior to that, Cariss had been Vice President from 1881 to 1883.

“Cariss was born in Philadelphia and studied under Peter Moran and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins. After an early career as a scene painter in several Philadelphia theaters, Cariss’ oil paintings gained him recognition. He was a prominent figure in Philadelphia art circles and his work as a painter and etcher dealt largely with figural subjects and historical scenes.

“Besides his important positions at the Sketch Club, some of Cariss’ noteworthy distinctions include being a member of the Philadelphia Society of Etchers, a founder of the Philadelphia Art Club, a Juror at the Academy in 1885, and a member of the Philadelphia Society of Artists. His most famous work, Oath of Allegiance at Valley Forge, was both painted and etched. Recently, a painting by Cariss entitled Contentment sold at a William Doyle Gallery auction in New York for $36,000. Cariss was also a stained glass designer from 1884 to 1893 and for a period of time ran the Centuries Stained Glass Co. in Philadelphia. He was a member of the Sketch Club from 1878 until his death in 1903.”

So, Bill, what does the “T” stand for?