Ammi Phillips (pronounced "Amm-eye") was an American itinerant portrait painter active in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York for five decades. He was born in Colebrook, Connecticut on April 24, 1788, beginning a life that spanned the period from the beginning of George Washington's presidency to the end of the American Civil War. While his early education remains obscure to history (although Phillips is often considered a self-taught artist, he may have apprenticed with another artist) it's clear that Phillips made up his mind to pursue a career as an artist while still young. He enters the documentary record as an artist in 1809, at the age of 21, with advertisements in both The Berkshire Reporter and a Pittsfield, Massachusetts tavern proclaiming his talent for painting "correct likenesses," distinguished by “perfect shadows and elegantly dressed in the prevailing fashions of the day.” Although Phillips also advertised his talent for "fancy painting, silhouettes, sign and ornamental painting," he soon specialized as a portraitist. His work satisfied the local standard, and within two years Phillips was receiving regular portrait commissions from community leaders in this area of western Massachusetts.
Ammi Phillips lived into the era of the daguerreotype, and his last portraits show this influence. He died on July 15, 1865, age 72, in Curtisville, Massachusetts, just outside Stockbridge, where his death certificate is filed in the Town Hall. He was buried in Amenia, New York, where he had lived earlier in his life.