Blond Boy with Primer, Peach, and Dog

Ammi Phillips, American, 1788 - 1865

Made in Kent, Connecticut, United States, North and Central America

c. 1836

Oil on canvas

48 3/8 x 30 inches (122.9 x 76.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Estate of Alice M. Kaplan, 2001

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Itinerant painter Ammi Phillips was the most prolific American country portrait painter of the nineteenth century; in a career spanning over fifty years, he may have painted as many as two thousand portraits. Phillips worked in a variety of styles, responding to the artistic influences he encountered as he traveled. This work belongs to a group executed between 1829 and 1838, when the artist lived in the area of Kent, Connecticut. Elegant and spirited, the portrait displays the mature skill of an artist who had no academic training but nevertheless possessed brilliant talent.

Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Over a career that spanned more than fifty years and is remarkably well documented for an itinerant, self-taught artist, Ammi Phillips may have painted nearly two thousand portraits. Only about five hundred can be securely attributed to the artist today, but these are more than enough to establish him as the most prolific American country portrait painter in the nineteenth century. Phillips’s paintings are in such a variety of styles that they have been attributed to several different artists. However, recent research has grouped his paintings chronologically, accounting for their varying approaches by his response to the artistic influences he encountered in his travels. Phillips and his family settled for periods of work in various communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York State; consequently, his different styles have been named according to their geographic location.

    In 1836 Phillips moved to Kent, Connecticut, and the paintings from 1829 to 1838 previously attributed to the “Kent Limner” have been identified as his Kent portraits. Blonde Boy with Primer, Peach, and Dog shows the distinctive style of these paintings at its best. The boy has been identified tentatively as Aaron D. Smith of Catskill, Green County, New York. The dark reddish background, the exquisite subtlety with which the peach, the boy’s face, and his hand have been painted, and the variety of ways in which Phillips has boldly abstracted the textures and patterns of costume and setting, all demonstrate the mature skill of an artist without academic training, but one who possesses brilliant talent. The elegance and authority conveyed by this large, full-length, and fully accoutred portrait are equal in spirit to the great aristocratic portraits of any country or age. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 59.