Samuel Broadbent


itinerant doctor, possible part-time dentist, and portrait artist, lived and worked in Connecticut during the early nineteenth century. Born in England on March 29, 1759,Broadbent was in Wethersfield, Connecticut, by 1798, and possibly Sag Harbor, on Long Island, New York, earlier, from newspaper advertisements that record himsoliciting business as a doctor who practiced surgery and midwifery. Official Connecticut state medical records, however, fail to confirm his involvement in the medical profession. In 1808, when he was forty-nine years old, he married the widow Abigail Griswold in Hartford. The couple had two children. On April 2, 1828, at the age of sixty-nine, Broadbent died, owing to the effects of dropsy and “high living.”The extent of Dr. Broadbent’s professional involvement as an artist has not been well documented. No newspaper advertisements have been found to suggest thathe had a career other than medicine. A small watercolor portrait depicting architect Samuel Blin is signed by the artist and dated 1808 twice. It remains the only knownsurviving image to link Broadbent with the portrait-making business. In 1819 one Romanta Woodruff made an entry in his diary noting that Dr. Broadbent had been tosee him and had taken his likeness for a portrait. This notation is the single piece of evidence confirming that Dr. Samuel Broadbent, the physician, and the artist of Blin’s portrait, are the same individual. Based on this documentation, approximately thirty likenesses have been attributed to Broadbent’s hand; the details of his career as an artist, however, remain shrouded in mystery.Dating from 1819, the portraits depicting Mr. and Mrs. Romanta Woodruff are typical of the artist’s known compositions. Subjects are rendered halflength, withhands placed visibly at their sides. While heads and bodies are executed in three-quarter view, a distinctive feature of his appears to be Broadbent’s placement of thesitters’ pupils at the far side of the eye, as if the individuals are peeking back at the viewer without moving their heads. Their pursed lips, finely executed lacework garments, and distinctively executed hairstyles, with Mrs. Woodruffs tendriled curls appearing as prominently featured effects in her likeness, are all hallmarks of thisartist’s portrait style.
See also
Painting, American Folk.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.
American Folk Portraits: Paintings and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.
Williamsburg, Va.,1981.Warren, William Lamson. “Doctor Samuel Broadbent (1759–1828), Itinerant Limner.”
The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin,
vol. 38 (October 1973): 97–128