Approximately eleven portraits can be attributed to this unidentified painter. His identification as The Conant Limner is derived from the last name of four sitters who constitute the largest family group by his hand. The Conants lived in Sterling, Massachusetts, where several of this limner's works remain. Although likenesses by this hand have turned up in other regions of Massachusetts, all may have originated in the vicinity of Sterling, in Worcester County.
The Conant Limner is not known to have dated any works. From the sitters' attire, consistent in style, it appears that the portraits were painted within a limited span of years. The National Gallery likeness of Sophia Burpee Conant, datable to about 1813 on the basis of her biography, forms a reference point for dating the other portraits and the period in which the artist was active.
Schematic shadows, such as those cast by lace collars, and simplification of form suggest that the artist, in addition to portraiture, perhaps painted signs or other decorative pieces. The artist has sometimes been referred to as "The Merrimac Limner," based on the single example in a private collection said to have been acquired in the northern part of the state in Ipswich. The existence of the greater number of works from the central region of the state, however, suggests that the designation Merrimac Limner is inappropriate and may be misleading. [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: 74-75.