He will do this job during half a century, moving from one village to another to renew his clientele which he does not hesitate to prospect over quite large distances. In the 1830s he was established in Kent, Connecticut, a town incorporated in 1739 that had less than 2,000 inhabitants in his time and just shy of 3,000 today.
It was in Kent that the quality of his art was recognized in 1924, when several portraits were exhibited at an antique show. He rarely signed his works and the reconstruction of his long journey required a meticulous work, completed in the late 1950s.
Ammi Phillips shares with the itinerant painters of his time a stylized drawing with realistic faces. The proportions of the body are questionable, fortunately hidden in ample clothing, and the age of the children is not easy to identify. The technique is simple because customers need a souvenir more than a piece of art. This austere art is enlivened by nice symbols held in hand by the model.
In the Kent period, Ammi Phillips often uses a saturated red or vermilion without detail, perhaps to hide some loss of interest in clothes. This practice brings a considerable strength to his minimalist compositions which involuntarily anticipate the colorist trends of the twentieth century.
A group of four oils on canvas is considered as a peak of American folk art. An unidentified girl appears on three compositions where she holds in turn a white cat, parsley leaves and a flower. The fourth painting shows a two-year-old boy, named, located in Clermont NY, dated 1834. The two children have identical robes and are accompanied by the same dog lying at their feet.
The portrait with parsley, 83 x 68 cm, is estimated $ 800K for sale by Christie's in New York on January 18, lot 1205.
Another portrait of a little girl in a red dress was sold for $ 810K including premium by Sotheby's on January 21, 2012 over a lower estimate of $ 300K. The composition is similar but the girl is less young and the dress is not rough. A multicolored bird is placed on her finger. On the other hand she holds the parsley, as in the example discussed above.
SOLD for $ 1.7M including premium