Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Look at Paintings of American Women & Children Attributed to Ammi Phillips 1788-1865

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Ammi Phillips (1788–1865), a mostly self-taught New England portrait painter, was born in Colebrook, Connecticut.

Ammi Phillips (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 (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 (1788-1865) 1812 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 (1788-1865) 1813 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 (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 (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 (1788-1865) 1815 Harriet Leavens

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.


Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1816 Alice Slade

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

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1818 Ruth Haynes Palmer

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1820 Sarah Mynderse Campbell

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

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1820 Jane Ann Campbell

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1824 Pauline Daring Denton

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1824 Woman With a Shawl & Bonnet Holding Book

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1825 A Lady

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1835 Catherine DeWitt

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

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

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1837 Mrs. Stephen Nottingham Ostrander with Child and Dog

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1850 Emily Miner Fox

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1850 A Lady

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) Catherine Stoutenburgh

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

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1820 Jane Ann Campbell

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) Jane Marie Pells Phillips

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

Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) 1834 Andrew Jackson Tenbreoke

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