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Our Winter Art Show

May 2024
1min read

The self-taught artist Ammi Phillips had been earning his living painting portraits for twenty-five years by the time young James Mairs Salisbury sat for him in 1836 (left), and this canvas reveals how well he had learned to disguise his shortcomings as a draftsman. He used the same composition—plain background, patterned floor, brass-tacked bench, brown and white dog—over and over again; he concealed the body in an elaborate costume that was neverthless easy to paint; and he took care of the hands by having them hold a strawberry. All of this left him more time to concentrate on the boy’s face, with which his clients were no doubt well pleased.

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