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Charles Joshua Chaplin - Portrait of Erastus Fairbanks


Charles Joshua Chaplin (1825-1891), French

Portrait of Erastus Fairbanks, 1847

OIL ON CANVAS, 45 ½ x 35 inches

Gift of Arthur F. and Phillip H. Stone

Erastus Fairbanks, father of the Athenaeum's founder Horace, led the family's scale manufacturing business in St. Johnsbury for over thirty years, and is largely credited with its success. Elected governor twice, in 1852 and 1860, Fairbanks committed much of his life to public service and was a steadfast supporter of the Union as gover­nor during the Civil War.

In this portrait, Fairbanks is depicted as an unassuming New England businessman, dressed well but with little taste for fin­ery or the trappings of wealth. Painted almost ten years after Fairbanks' death, the work com­memorates Fairbanks' character as well as his vision. The portraitist, French academic painter Charles Chaplin, is perhaps best remem­bered today for having briefly taught the impressionist Mary Cassatt.