Harriet Leavens (1802-1830)
Gallery Text

Phillips was an itinerant, self-taught painter who spent much of his career traveling through small towns in the Berkshires and the Connecticut River Valley. An able marketer, he promoted his portraits in local newspapers as having been done “in a correct style” with “perfect shadows and elegant dresses in the prevailing fashion of the day.”

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.

With its simple geometries and pastel palette punctuated by flashes of blue, orange, and red, the portrait looks forward to the modernist abstractions of the early twentieth century. Phillips’s work held particular appeal for American painters of that era.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Ammi Phillips, American (Colebrook, CT 1788 - 1865 Curtisville, MA)
Harriet Leavens (1802-1830)
Work Type
c. 1815
Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
144.8 x 71.1 cm (57 x 28 in.)
frame: 154.6 x 80.7 x 6 cm (60 7/8 x 31 3/4 x 2 3/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: Labels: Whitney Museum (1980); Museum of American Folk Art (1994); Fogg Color in Art exhibit; City Library Association, Springfield; MFA Boston (4/1948); University of Chicago Smart Gallery.
Descent through the family from the sitter's parents, Joseph and Waitstill Peck Leavens, Lansingburgh, NY; to their daughter, Anna Maullin Niel; to her granddaughter, Harriet Anna Niel; her gift to the Fogg Art Museum, 1945
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the Estate of Harriet Anna Niel
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
Publication History

Jules David Prown and Barbara Rose, American Painting: From the Colonial Period to the Present, Skira/Rizzoli (New York), pp. 70-73, ill. p. 70

From Colony to Nation: Exhibition of American Painting, Silver, and Architecture from 1650 to the War of 1812, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1949), p. 15, ill. p. 65, no. 11

Agnes Halsey Jones, Rediscovered Painters of Upstate New York, 1700-1875, exh. cat., Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute (Utica, NY, 1958), p. 21, no. 14

Highlights from the Collections of the Fogg Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, MO, 1964), cat. 7

Mary C. Black and Jean Lipman, American Folk Painting (New York, NY, 1966), p. 53, fig. 55

The Editors of Art in America, ed., The Artist in America, W. W. Norton & Company (New York, 1967), ill. p. 96

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 8

Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT, 1967)

Ammi Phillips: Portrait Painter 1788-1865, exh. cat., C. N. Potter (New York, NY, 1968), pp. 12, 22, cat. 23, ill.

Jules David Prown, American Painting: From Its Beginnings to the Armory Show, Skira (New York, NY, 1969), pp. 74-76, ill. p. 74

James Thomas Flexner, Nineteenth Century American Painting, Chanticleer Press (New York, NY, 1970), ill. opp. p. 119

Jane Lord, Lansingburgh New York 1771-1971, brochure, Whitehurst Printing and Binding Co. (Lansingburgh, NY, 1971), ill. p. 13

The Britannica Encyclopedia of American Art, Simon & Schuster (New York, 1973), ill. p. 427

James N. Carpenter, Color in Art: A Tribute to Arthur Pope, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1974), pp. 50-51, cat. 12

John Wilmerding, American Art, Penguin Books (New York, 1976), pp. 101-102, pl. 113

Ross Taggart, Kaleidoscope of American Painting: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, exh. cat., William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art (now Nelson-Atkins) (Kansas City, MO, 1977), p. 23, cat. 20, ill

Barbara Holdridge and Lawrence B. Holdridge, "Ammi Phillips, limner extraordinary", ed. Ellen G. Miles, Main Street/Universe Books (New York, 1977), pp. 114, 117, fig. 2

Jean Lipman and Tom Armstrong, American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, Hudson Hills Press / Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY, 1980), p. 142, ill. p. 141

Howard Rose, Unexpected Eloquence: The Art in American Folk Art, Raymond Saroff (Olive Bridge, NY, 1990), ill. p. 37

American Country Folk Art, Imaginative Works from American Hands, Time-Life Books, Inc. (Alexandria, VA, 1990), ill. p. 28

Robert Hobbs, Milton Avery, Hudson Hills Press (New York, NY, 1990), p. 81, fig. 6

Colleen Cowles Heslip, Between the Rivers: Itinerant Painters from the Connecticut to the Hudson, exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA, 1990), p. 58

Naive Art, Gakken Publishing Co. (Tokyo, Japan, 1991), ill. p. 83

Wayne Craven, American Art: History and Culture, Brown & Benchmark Publishers (Madison, WI, 1994), p. 265, fig. 19.6

John Caldwell, Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, and Dale T. Johnson, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume I: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born by 1815, ed. Kathleen Luhrs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Princeton University Press (New York, NY and Princeton, NJ, 1994), p. 368

Stacy C. Hollander and Howard P. Fertig, Revisiting Ammi Phillips: Fifty Years of American Portraiture, exh. cat., American Folk Art Museum (New York, NY, 1994), p. 50, pl. VIII

Jane Turner, The Encyclopedia of American Art before 1914, Macmillan Publishers Limited (London, England, 2000), p. 378, ill. p. 379

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), ill. p. 132

Stacy C. Hollander, The Seduction of Light: Ammi Phillips, Mark Rothko, Compositions in Pink, Green and Red, exh. cat., American Folk Art Museum (New York, NY, 2008), pp. 7, 29, ill. p. 21

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), pp. 33, 398-400, cat. 360, ill.

[Unidentified article], Magazine of Art (April 1950), vol. 43, no. 4, p. 152

Anne Wood Murray, "Sunshades, Parasols and Umbrellas", The Magazine Antiques (April 1967), pp. 492-495, ill. p. 494

Barbara Holdridge and Lawrence B. Holdridge, "Ammi Phillips, Limner Extraordinary", The Magazine Antiques (December 1961), fig. 2

Stacy C. Hollander, "Revisiting Ammi Phillips", The Magazine Antiques (February 1994)

William Lawson Warren, "Ammi Phillips: A Critique", Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin (January 1966), vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 1-18, pp. 9, 13

Tom Armstrong, "Folk or Art? A Symposium", The Magazine Antiques (January 1989), pp. 282-283, pl. E

"Good Save", Antique Monthly (July / August 1992), vol. 25, no. 7, p. 14, p. 14

Laura Beach, "Revisiting Ammi Phillips: Fifty Years of American Portraiture", Antiques and the Arts Weekly (March 18, 1994), p. 73, ill.

Stacy C. Hollander, "Great Collections: Ammi Phillips Portraits", Country Living (March 1994), pp. 66-68, p. 68, ill. p. 66

Virginia Bohlin, "A Showcase Exhibition for an Itinerant Artist", The Boston Globe (Boston, MA, March 6, 1994), ill. n.p.

Mary Jo Carpenter, "The Rescue of Harriet Campbell", Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA, May 25, 1990), n.p.

"American Folk Painting", Art In America (November 1966 - December 1966), vol. 54, no. 6, pp. 113-128, ill. p. 118

"Catalogue of Ammi Phillips", Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin (Hartford, CT, October 1965)

Frances D. Broderick, "Harriet Leavens Maullin: Her Family and Portrait", The American Genealogist (October 1969), vol. XLV, no. 4, pp. 237-244, ill. p. 238

Agnes Halsey Jones, "Rediscovered Paintings of Upstate New York", Art In America (Summer 1958), vol. 46, no. 2, ill. p. 76

Barbara Holdridge and Lawrence B. Holdridge, "Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), a 'Rediscovery' ", Art In America (Summer 1960), vol. 48, no. 2, p. 98

Antonia Mattheou, "Change of Heart", New York State Archives (Summer 2011), vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 6-7, ill. p. 7

"Thomas Armstrong of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York", The Christian Science Monitor (Thursday, February 13, 1975), n.p., ill.

Exhibition History

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

4 - Best. Object is extensively researched, well described and information is vetted