This portrait depicts one half of a prominent couple from Dutchess Country. Nathan Beckwith was a land surveyor and his wife was the sister of Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke, the first American women's college. Their social status as rural gentry is suggested by their dignified pasture and the attractive painted Federal-style chairs. Ammi Phillips was an itinerant painter who sought commissions in New York, western Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Apparently self-taught, he nevertheless modeled his images on the fashionable portrait conventions of the day. His style evolved from the simple forms and pastel colors of these early works to the large shapes and bold colors in the later portrait of Jeannette Woolley Storm.