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 Walter Joseph Phillips  (1884 - 1963)

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Lived/Active: Manitoba/Ontario/Alberta/British Columbia / Canada/England      Known for: landscape and marine painting, wood block prints, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
The Hoh-Hok Houseposts at Karlukwees
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following was submitted by Ray Castello, American Art Collection.  He credits the Royal Bank Financial Group, Corporate Art Collection.

Walter Joseph Phillips was born 1884 at Barton-on-Humber in Lincolnshire, England, the son of Reverend John Phillips, a Methodist minister. In his teens, he attended the Birmingham School of Art once a week, studying under Edward R. Taylor.  He went to South Africa for a few years in the hope of earning enough money there to be able to study art in Paris, but returned with little more than he left with.  By 1908, he had worked as a commercial artist in Manchester and London, then from 1908 to 1911 served as art master at Bishop Woodworth School in Salisbury, England.

In 1911, he held his first solo show in Salisbury which was both critically and financially successful. Eventually, he and his wife Gladys Pitcher, whom he had married in December 1910, decided to emigrate to Canada, arriving in Winnipeg in June, 1913. Shortly after his arrival, a fellow artist he met, taught him etching technique and sold him his tools.

From 1915 to 1918, he produced etchings in very small editions, subsequently switching to colour woodcut prints, a medium he found more to his liking. During the summers of 1917 and 1919, Phillips taught at the University of Wisconsin, and by then, his works had commanded national and international attention.  By 1923, he had published forty-two colour woodcuts, and in a burst of productivity between 1926 and 1928, he produced thirty-nine.  By now, he had well-established his own pattern of making woodcuts: a graphite sketch, next a finished watercolour, another sketch to compose the woodcut, and then the final print.

Phillips was so highly regarded that during the Great Depression, he was one of a handful of artists who could live off the sale of his paintings and woodcuts.  From 1925 to 1935, his subjects were mainly from the Prairies, but by 1946, most of his subjects were from the Rocky Mountains. He also continued to be a prolific book illustrator.  In 1940, he became a staff member of the Banff Summer School of Fine Arts and in 1941, moved to Calgary to take up the position of instructor at the Institute of Technology and Art, where he stayed until 1949.  In 1953, he moved to Banff where he lived in a house on Tunnell Mountain.

By 1958, Phillips' eyesight began failing and in 1960, he retired to Victoria. In
1963, Walter Joseph Phillips died in Victoria at the age of 78. His ashes were scattered in the Alberta mountains he had loved so much and which had provided him with so many of his subjects.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biographical information is from Doug Levis, Calgary Alberta Canada:

Books on the artist are rather extensive - my standard biography lists the following:

Walter J. Phillips, by D. Scott, Ryerson Press, 1947;

Walter J. Phillips, A Selection of His Works and Thoughts, by M. Gribbon, N.G.C., 1978;

Walter J. Phillips - The Complete Graphic Works, by R. Boulet, Loates Publishing, 1981;

The Tranquility and the Turbulence: The Life and Works of Walter J. Phillips, by R.Boulet, Loates Publishing, 1981;

Phillips in Print, ed. M. Tippett, Manitoba Records Soc., 1982;

web site can be found at

There are numerous other 'mentions' as he was relatively important from a print-making point of view in Canada, particularly the west and with some international recognition.

Walter Joseph Phillips is best known for woodblock prints - not etchings (maybe 30 at most out of a list of 247 prints - from Boulet's Complete Graphic Works) and no doubt there may be 1 or 2 marine images, but he was best known for landscapes.  He worked in watercolor as well as some oil.

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