Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) adapted and employed five main styles during his artistic career: the Border period (1812-1819), the Realistic period (1820-1828), the Kent period (1829-1838), the Sculptural period (1848-1850) and the Last period (1860-1865). This portrait of a young girl with a gray and white cat is from his Kent period, when Ammi Phillips lived and worked in Kent, Connecticut. It aligns closely with four other examples from Phillips' Kent period: Andrew Jackson Ten Broeck, circa 1834 (ex-collection Peter Tillou); Girl in a Red Dress, circa 1830-1835 (Terra Foundation, Chicago); Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog, circa 1830-1835 (American Folk Art Museum, New York); and Girl in a Red Dress with Her Dog, circa 1830-1835 (private collection).
These portraits of children with pets share a remarkably similar composition. In each of these five portraits, the child is seated in a red dress, their bodies positioned diagonally to the sitter, with both slippered feet peeking out from lacy pantaloons. The arms of the sitters are diagonally parallel to each other, and the subjects are represented with pale skin that contrasts with the jewel-like color of their clothing and a stark black background.
For more information on the life and work of Ammi Phillips, see Barbara C. Holdridge and Lawrence B. Holdridge, Ammi Phillips: Portrait Painter 1788-1865 (New York, 1968); Colleen Cowles Heslip and Mary Black, Between the Rivers: Itinerant Painters from the Connecticut to the Hudson (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, 1990); and Stacy Hollander and Howard P. Fertig, Revisiting Ammi Phillips: Fifty Years of American Portraiture (New York, 1994).