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Vanderpoel was a lawyer, and later a judge who lived in Kinderhook, NY, and this portrait—and the companion one of his wife Anna Doll Vanderpoel—undoubtedly hung in their substantial Federal-style home there. The couple later moved to Albany, where James enjoyed a long and successful career as a politician, businessman, and judge. The fifty-year career of portrait painter Ammi Phillips represents one of the most prolific, artistically successful, and perhaps financially stable of any nineteenth-century itinerant American folk artist. The self-taught artist created somewhere between 600 and 2,000 paintings, many of them portraits of middle class people living in rural areas. This painting—considered part of the artist's "realistic period,"�—shows a greater degree of sophistication through the use of facial modeling with light and shadow than his earlier works. The stenciled frame is the original one.

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