Friday, November 8, 2013

American Folk Art - Ammi Phillips 1788–1865


Ammi Phillips, a mostly self-taught New England portrait painter, was born in Colebrook, Connecticut. The following portraits are attributed to Phillips.  Either this folk artist has been tagged by many as a convenient identity for an unknown artist, or he is an artist whose style appears to have changed radically over the decades he painted portraits.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) 14-year-old Mary Ann Gale 1815

In 1809 when he was 21, he traveled to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he advertised in the Berkshire Reporter that he was eager to & capable of painting portraits for potential clients.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Mrs. Goodrich and Child

These early notices are the only ads he is known to have placed in any local newspaper. Phillips declared that he would portray his clients with “perfect shadows and elegantly dressed in the prevailing fashions of the day.” It was a promise that Phillips kept for the next 5 decades. His work changed as the fashion, furnishings, customs, & styles of everyday life in 19th-century America changed over time.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) Mrs. Sarah Cornwell Everests

Scholars speculate that his portraits may have been influenced by the work of Connecticut artist Reuben Moulthrop (1763-1814), who had painted Phillips’ namesake, the Reverend Ammi Ruhamah Robbins, in nearby Norfolk. Phillips seems to have known the work of Massachusetts artist, James Brown (active 1806-1808). An 1808 portrait by Brown appears to have served as the model for an 1811 portrait produced by Phillips.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Patience Bolles Stoddard

His early portraits portray almost awkward, even stiff women with almond-shaped eyes and slightly off-center mouths. The method shows heavy outlining, a few props held in their hands, & simple, plain backgrounds. Over the following decades, most of his clients are holding something in their hands including sprigs of flowers; toys; books & letters; handmade needlework; and fashion accessories such as purses & even umberellas.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) c 1814-19 Mrs. Crane

By the mid-1820s, Phillips' sitters are more Romantic following the aesthetic of the period. They are strong women with a delicate beauty clothed in the shimmering, pearly colors typical of the Romantic age. As one decade turned to another, Phillips' 1830s seated women became more realistic image reflecting the ideal Republican mother. They are seated and leaning forward from the waist and their determined faces sit atop long, graceful necks.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) c 1815-19 Mrs. Stoddard Holding Bible

By the 1840s, Phillips had serious competition, less expensive photographic portraits. His portraits after that period reflect the rich, saturated colors of the Victorian years. His portraits are more staged reflecting popular studio photography. His women are more realistically portrayed bringing the life-like aspect of photography to the canvas.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) Harriet Leavens 1815

He worked as an itinerant painter in Connecticut, Massachusetts, & New York over 5 decades painting hundreds of portraits. Between 1811 and 1862, Phillips created at least 600 paintings which are attributed to his hand that still exist. The portraits presented here are attributed to Phillips by dealers & museum professionals, although I do not know if he painted all of them, I will post them for you to enjoy.

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) Alice Slade 1816


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) Mrs. Tobias Steller 1817


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Ruth Haynes Palmer 1818


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Sarah Mynderse Campbell 1820


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Rebecca Rouse (Mrs. Jonathan Eddy) 1820


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Jane Ann Campbell 1820


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) A Lady 1825


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Catherine DeWitt 1835


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Mrs. Mayer and Daughter 1835


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Mrs. Isaac Cox 1836


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Mrs. Stephen Nottingham Ostrander with Child & Dog 1837


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Girl in Pink with Dog


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  1820 Jane Ann Campbell


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Jane Marie Pells Phillips


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Lady in Black Dress Holding Book


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  1834 Andrew Jackson Tenbreoke


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Girl in Red Dress with Cat & Dog


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Grandmother and Grandson 1860


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Girl in a Red Dress and Her Dog


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Jeanette Payne


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Mary Elizabeth Smith


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Wife of the Journalist


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Young Girl and Her Cat


Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Portrait of a Woman


Attributed to Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865)  Mother and Child c 1820



Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) Lady in Pink Ribbons

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