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.