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Harriet Leavens (1802-1830), Ammi Phillips (c. 1815)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Harriet Leavens (1802-1830) (c. 1815) by Ammi Phillips.

About the Work

Title : Harriet Leavens (1802-1830)
Artist : Ammi Phillips
Year : c. 1815
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 144.8 x 71.1 cm (57 x 28 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Portraits by Ammi Phillips

Ammi Phillips was an American painter with a career spanning over 5 decades. For a large part of his creative years, Phillips traveling through smaller towns and cities in a bit to sell his portraits to otherwise unreachable audiences.

According to the digital catalgoue of the Harvard Art Museum :

“This portrait, among the most celebrated and widely recognized works in Phillips’s oeuvre, depicts the eldest daughter of the Leavens family of Lansingburgh, New York. She is portrayed as a slender, stylish young woman dressed in a gown in the Empire style, which was adopted from France.”

The painting is rendered in muted flesh tones. The drama added by play of light and shadow is missing from Phillips’ portrait, rendering the background fairly flat. The young girl is dressed elegantly in a pinkish floor-length dress. Phillips demonstrates his attention to detail with the lace on the umbrella and the twirls in Harriet’s hair.

Other Details

Ammi Phillips’s Harriet Leavens (1802-1830) is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century. It is part of the museum’s collection of the Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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