Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dogs & Cats in American Folk Art - Ammi Phillips 1788-1865

Ammi Phillips (American artist, 1788-1865) Boy in a red plaid dress with his dog and a riding crop. 

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

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 when he was painting portraits.

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

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. 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)  Girl in a Red Dress and Her Dog

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)  Girl in Red Dress with Cat & Dog

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)  1834 Andrew Jackson Tenbreoke

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 post them for you to enjoy.

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