Ammi Phillips

USA / 1788 - 1865 / wikipedia
For more than 50 years, Phillips—whose biblical name fittingly means “my people”—portrayed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his friends, relatives, and neighbors in New York as far north as Ticonderoga in the Adirondacks, south to Bedford, in Westchester County, and throughout the border areas of Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Connecticut.

He was born in Colebrook, CT, in 1788. He was already traveling as an artist by 1809, when he advertised from William Clarke’s tavern in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that he would paint “correct likenesses.” Although no portraits are known from this earliest period, the young artist asserted in this and a subsequent ad, placed the following year, that he had extensive experience and would paint his clients with “perfect shadows and elegantly dressed in the prevailing fashions of the day.” This promise became a leitmotif of Phillips’s work ... from the early romantic portraits of Harriet Leavens and Harriet Campbell—who appear in the guise of fashion plates replete with Chinese silk parasols and reticules—to his last portraits of the 1860s.

.... Phillips codified his representations in this period, using conventional motifs and poses for both his own expediency and predictability for his clients. Each portrait, nevertheless, is a fresh and penetrating likeness of a specific individual. Phillips moved back to the Berkshires sometime before 1860 and continued to paint residents of the area until his death. After a career remarkable for its longevity, productivity, and chameleon-like ability to change with the times, Phillips died, in 1865, in Curtisville (now Interlaken). His obituary in the Berkshire County Eagle read simply, “Died at... (

Ammi Phillips (April 24, 1788-July 11, 1865); American itinerant portrait painter active in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York for five decades. After his death he was was forgotten...
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Suzan Hamer


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