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Indiana Governor Portrait Artist: Cornelius Zwaan (1872 - 1964)

Cornelius Zwaan

Artist, Indiana Governors' Portrait Collection

Maurice Clifford Townsend

Maurice Clifford Townsend (1884-1954)
Governor of IndianaJanuary 11, 1937-January 13, 1941

Artist: Cornelius Zwaan, Dutch, 1872-1964
oil on canvas, 44 1/4 x 36 (112.4 x 91.5)
Signed and dated l.r.: Cornelius Zwaan/1940

THE PORTRAIT of Governor M. Clifford Townsend was painted by Cornelius C. Zwaan, an artist who had come to Indianapolis in 1935. He had impressed Townsend and others with his ability to draw with exactness, and Townsend conceded to the artist's wish to paint his portrait. Zwaan made two paintings. The first was kept by Mr. and Mrs. Townsend, and a second was painted for the official collection in 1938. According to the Indiana History Bulletin, the portrait was accepted and hung in the State House in the spring of 1940. (1)

The picture represents the governor seated comfortably in a chair, his head turned so that he looks directly out of the canvas. Bookshelves and a desk in the left background give the composition an illusion of space. The smooth, linear style and rather literal choice of color is characteristic of much contemporary portraiture, possibly reflecting the popularity of large color photographs. The dominant mood of the portrait is one of geniality: Governor Townsend's pose is natural as he looks toward his audience with a calm, amiable expression.

Cornelius C. Zwaan, the artist, was born in Amsterdam in 1872 and attended the Ryks Academy there. He made several trips to the United States, painting portraits in different parts of the country. He lived in Milwaukee and a number of other cities before moving to Indianapolis in 1935. During his stay here, Zwaan painted many of Indianapolis's leading citizens. In 1940, he moved to Detroit, where he died in 1964. In 1973 the Indianapolis museum of Art held a retrospective of Zwaan's work in which the portrait of Maurice Clifford Townsend was a prominent feature.

(1) Indiana History Bulletin, XVII, no. 5, May, 1940, pp. 219-20.

Source: Peat, Wilbur D. Portraits and Painters of the Governors of Indiana 1800-1978. Revised, edited and with new entries by Diane Gail Lazarus, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Biographies of the governors by Lana Ruegamer, Indiana Historical Society. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society and Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1978.