Portrait of Harriet Campbell

Harriet Campbell was seven years old when this portrait was painted, though her formal costume makes her appear older. Phillips was a successful itinerant artist, working in small towns along the borders of New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Unlike other early American painters, he was not trained in the European traditions of portraiture. Largely self-taught, he focused on capturing convincing likenesses and creating decorative color arrangements, often reusing poses and clothing.

Little is known about the early life of the itinerant portrait painter Ammi Phillips. The first reference to him is not until 1811, when the twenty-three-year-old Phillips was already a well-known limner in rural New England.

Five periods have been identified to assist in categorizing, defining, and dating Phillips’s work: Border, Realistic, Kent, Sculptural, and Late styles. Harriet Campbell was painted during the Border period, so named because most of the portraits painted between 1812 and 1819 were of the residents of the small towns on the borders of New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. This portrait includes all the characteristics of the period, notably: soft pastel colors; a light background; and the definition of form predominantly through strong contour lines. While much of the figure remains flat, Phillips did attempt to suggest modeling to round his figure.

Harriet Campbell was probably born on June 10, 1808, in Greenwich, New York, the daughter of John and Polly Walker Campbell. In 1836 she married Marinus Fairchild, a lawyer in Salem, New York.

—Steven Kern, excerpted from The Clark: Selections from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Steven Kern et al. (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1996), p. 46.

Ammi Phillips

American, 1788–1865

Portrait of Harriet Campbell

c. 1815

Oil on canvas

48 1/2 x 25 in. (123.2 x 63.5 cm) Frame: 51 7/8 x 28 7/8 x 2 in. (131.8 x 73.3 x 5.1 cm)

Gift of Oliver Eldridge in memory of Sarah Fairchild Anderson, teacher of art, North Adams Public Schools, daughter of Harriet Campbell, 1991