Artistic Adieu & Brushstrokes of Gratitude: IRTA Honors Jim Bachman with a Cat Clausen Masterpiece

IRTA Executive Director Jim Bachman and Renowned Artist Cat Clausen

December 12, 2023

In a heartfelt tribute to their outgoing Executive Director, Jim Bachman, the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA) Board of Directors commissioned a special painting by the renowned Abraham Lincoln artist, Cat Clausen. This unique gesture not only honored Bachman’s significant contributions to the association but also intertwines the rich history of Illinois with his legacy.

Jim Bachman, who has been a pivotal figure in advocating for the rights and benefits of retired educators in Illinois, is stepping down after years of dedicated service. His tenure at IRTA has been marked by significant achievements, including enhanced member benefits and the strengthening of the organization’s financial health.

To commemorate his retirement, the IRTA Board chose Cat Clausen, an artist famed for her captivating portraits of Abraham Lincoln, to create a bespoke artwork. Clausen, whose work is noted for its historical accuracy and emotional depth, brings a unique perspective to this commission. Her ability to weave historical elements with contemporary themes is expected to result in a piece that encapsulates Bachman’s impact on the organization and its members.

The painting turned out to be a fusion of Clausen’s signature style with elements representing Bachman’s career and contributions to the retired educator community. This collaboration is seen as a fitting tribute, aligning the educational legacy of Abraham Lincoln with the modern-day efforts of Jim Bachman in supporting retired educators.

Clausen worked from a photo of Lincoln by Matthew Brady (circa February – April of 1865) to create the portrait.  “I love it that Lincoln has this smile and a twinkle in his eye.  He’s also very weary.  He’s worked a long time like Jim,” Clausen said about the image. “He’s holding a pen that he used to sign the emancipation proclamation.  It’s probably my favorite picture of Lincoln.  In this one he just looks so human to me, such a hard worker.”

“It’s beautiful and I am overwhelmed,” Bachman emotionally said as the painting was unveiled. “From the very first time I saw Cat’s work at our art fair I’ve loved her work.  It’s beautiful and I thank the board for presenting this to me, I really appreciate it.”

“I worked on it with a pallet knife. And I put a lot of love and care into it for Jim. Thank you for your service and what an honor to be a part of this,” Clausen concluded. 

The original portrait will hang in the IRTA Board Room at the state office in Springfield alongside other great images of Lincoln.  Jim received a framed and signed print of the original portrait to hang in his home.  Jim’s tenure is a poignant reminder of the impact one individual can have on a community and an inspiration for future retired educators.

For more information about the artist Cat Clausen and her work, visit Cat Clausen’s website. To learn more about the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, visit the official website at