was a portrait and ornamental painter working in the area of Albany, New York, primarily during the period from 1800 to 1820. Through his surviving account books,it has been determined that his work included miniature portraits and Masonic ritual paintings as well as the painting, lettering, and gilding of carriages, fire buckets,clock faces, fences, mirror frames, drums, sun blinds, ear trumpets, and pieces of furniture. Whether formally trained or not, at some point early on Ames began painting in an American academic manner. He is also thought to have carved figures in wood. Folk art historian Robert Bishop concluded that Ezra Ames was probablythe most successful portrait painter working in upstate New York in the first third of the nineteenth century. Because he painted many of the prominent politicians of the New York State capital, he was nicknamed the “official New York State portrait painter.” Ames also is credited with influencing the folk painter Ammi Phillips (1788– 1865).Born in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1768, Ames grew up in what is now Wayland, Massachusetts. Records indicate that by 1790 he was painting in Worcester,Massachusetts, but joined family members in Albany, New York, by 1793. In 1796 Albany became the state capital of New York, and it was there that Ames soldartists’ material and did decorative painting as well as other craftwork before flourishing as a portrait painter. He was an active freemason, rose to the position of GrandHigh Priest of the Grand Chapter of New York State, and benefited from the connection by receiving Masonic regalia commissions. He is also known to havecompleted several landscape paintings.In 1852 Ames was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York City but was more active in Albany, where he served aschairman of the Fine Arts Committee of the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts (1805), and as a director and president of the Mechanics and Farmers’ Bank of Albany. Following his death in Albany, his family auctioned fifty of his artworks. He left an estate of $66,000, a considerable sum at the time.Ames is well known for a portrait he painted about 1812 of United States vice president and New York State governor George Clinton, which was purchased bythe Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1812, after it won acclaim at the second exhibition of the Society of Artists of the Untied States, in Philadelphia. This portraitno longer exists, but another full-length likeness of George Clinton by Ames, dated about 1813, hangs in the New York State Capitol. Ames also painted the officialhalf-length portrait of Clinton’s nephew, Dewitt Clinton, another governor of New York.
Robert Bishop; Fraternal Societies; Freemasonry; Miniatures; Painting, Landscape;
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New York, 1979.Bolton, Theodore, and Irwin F.Cortelyou.
Ezra Ames of Albany: Portrait Painter, Craftsman, Royal Arch Mason, Banker, 1768–1836.
New York, 1955.Moore, William D. “American Masonic Ritual Painting.”
vol. 24, no.4 (winter 1999–2000): 58–65.