Born in Connecticut in 1766, Ethan followed a classical education in primary school and gained a goodly knowledge of French, Greek and Latin. Later he took studies in the law and finally found himself in New York City practicing at the firm of Alexander Hamilton. 1810 found Brown as a Justice in the Supreme Court and in 1818 he was elected to the Governorship of Ohio. He was later elected to the United States Senate (1821), and left the Governorship. During his tenure as Governor, Brown took great interest in the Ohio Canal construction project and in 1822 became Canal Commissioner. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson appointed him Ambassador to Brazil. He retired from public life four years later. Cincinnati was to be his home for some time. He died in Indianapolis in 1852.
This work was executed long after the subject's death- probably in the 1880s. John Henry Witt (Witte) was born in Indiana near the Ohio River town of Dublin. During his youth, Witt worked as a machinist and wagon painter for his uncle's agricultural supply firm. Witt relocated to Columbus in 1862 after studying with J.O. Eaton in Cincinnati. Eaton had gained the reputation of being one of the most talented figures and portrait painters. John Witt was a very active artist in the central Ohio, painting portraits of many of the leading families therein. He also was a noteworthy teacher; his students included some of the foremost regional artists of the day - Silas Martin, James Mosure and Philip Clover were some of the standouts. Witt took an active role in the affairs of the Capitol city and is the artist of record for a significant number of the Ohio governor's portraits in the Statehouse art collection. In 1873, Witt relocated to Washington, DC and painted portraits of General Sherman, Senator Sherman, Judge Swayne and Charles Sumner. He was a member of the Literary Club of Washington, D.C. In 1878 he moved to New York City where he was met great success, becoming one of the top society artists of the day. Witt was enrolled as an associate member of the New York Academy of Art in 1887.