Amzi Emmons Zeliff was born 11 April 1831, in Morris County, New Jersey, son of Daniel P. and Maria Van Houton Zeliff and a descendant of early Dutch settlers of Staten Island and New Jersey. He later may have moved to Essex County for a period, perhaps upon his marriage to Cornelia Harris.
Family members say that at one time he owned the White Horse tavern in Lincoln Park, New Jersey. Zeliff's house in that town is reported to have had flower-patterned ceiling murals that may have been executed by the artist. Descendants also recall others of his paintings, including subjects such as horses, a snow scene, and a portrait of Queen Victoria. Zeliff was listed in a Morris county directory of 1897-1898 under the town of Lincoln Park and with the profession of painter. There is no other substantive information about the artist and there are currently no identified works by him other than the National Gallery's painting The Barnyard (1955.11.1).
Zeliff died 13 September 1915 and was buried in Paterson, New Jersey. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 397.