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Tom Phillips

 (1927 - 2005)
Tom Embert (Thomas) Phillips was active/lived in Oklahoma, Missouri.  Tom Phillips is known for western genre painting and sculpture.

Tom Phillips

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Tom Phillips
Tom Phillips was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma. His great grandfather Thomas Jefferson Phillips, who had some Native American blood, ventured to Oklahoma in the 1850s, married a Native American woman and became a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

By the age of nine, Phillips showed so much interest in drawing he was sent to the Helen Lorenze Art School in Oklahoma City.  There, he studied the fundamentals of perspective, anatomy and drawing landscapes until he was 16. Since then, he has studied at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and the Kansas City Art Institute.

Phillips also studied privately with David Kreitzer out of Mill Valley, California and Mark Anstending of San Francisco, California who instructed him in the esoterics of sight and sound. Phillips then spent 20 years working as a commercial illustrator in New York, Colorado Springs and Kansas City in order to support himself. 

In 1970, he began devoting his time to painting and sculptures. He spent much time visiting ranches, reservations and scenic attractions of the west in order to record the local color. The distinguishing characteristic of his work is his ability to capture subtle expressions and quiet, tender moments of reflection.  Many consider him the poet of the Western artists.

Phillips painted the mural behind the "Lakota Buffalo Days" Diorama housed in the Akta Lakota Museum at St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, SD.

Reference: Akta Lokata Museum & Cutural Center


Tom Phillips was born in Chickasha OK, April 7, 1927 and graduated from Central High School in 1945. He joined the Merchant Marines and served with the 45th Infantry as an artist in Korea. As a member of the Chickasaw Nation, Tom was considered to be the poet of Western artists and a champion of preserving Native American history.??

Tom's father recognized his son's interest in drawing and by the age of nine, Tom went to the Helen Lorenze Art School in Oklahoma City. At 13 he studied at Phillips University in Enid OK. He worked at many advertising agencies from Oklahoma City to New York City.

Later his studies took him to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Kansas City Art Institute. ??While living in Colorado Springs, he helped his father and brother build a family cabin near Woodland Park CO. Many happy times were spent at the family cabin with his children and relatives. ??

As illustrator for the American Hereford Association in Kansas City, he did many paintings, drawings and sketches, which were on the cover and interior of national magazines. A book, "The Sketches of Tom Phillips," was published in 1971 and featured drawings and sketches from Hereford ranches across the country.  In 1991 Tom was authorized to paint a scene from the Academy Award winning movie, Dances with Wolves, and it hangs in the South Dakota Hall of Fame.??

He was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 1998 and was commissioned to design a postage stamp for Mexico. Most recently Tom was awarded "The Master Heritage Award" by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee OK.

Native American artist, Thomas Embert Phillips, passed away Tuesday, Oct 11, 2005 in Norman. OK.

Obituary, The Oklahoman, October 16, 2005, page 27

Written and submitted by Scott Wilder, Art Researcher from Olathe, Kansas

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About  Tom Phillips

Born:  1927 - Chickasha, Oklahoma
Died:   2005 - Norman, Oklahoma
Known for:  western genre painting and sculpture