Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


Portrait of a Man

c. 1845
Ethan T. Cabanis
oil on canvas
Collection of the Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, IN
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Anton Hulman Jr.; 1968.092

This portrait was painted by Dr. Ethan Cabanis, Springfield’s first resident portrait artist, who started advertising his services in 1839. Antebellum Springfield was not large enough to support a full-time portrait painter, so Dr. Cabanis occasionally took to the road to try to secure commissions as an itinerant artist. Like many other itinerant portrait painters of the time, Dr. Cabanis also opened a daguerreotype studio. After a decade trying to establish himself as an artist in Springfield, Dr. Cabanis gave up and emigrated to California with the Gold Rush of 1849.

This portrait of an unknown man was painted in the mid-1840s. The sitter’s fine suit and confident air suggest he was a member of Springfield’s middle or upper class – a group that formed a ready market for portraits as symbols of status and gentility.