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Phillips trained as an artist in England, and tried to make a living as a commercial artist before taking an appointment as Art Master. He painted throughout his life, and had his first solo exhibition in 1911. He continued to teach upon his arrival in Winnipeg, but eventually became a full-time artist, author, and illustrator of international fame. His colour woodblock prints and watercolours became highly sought after and continue to fetch increasing prices at auction.
Phillips made many prints and watercolours of the West Coast after moving to Victoria, and it is interesting to compare the three main geographic phases (as it were) of Phillip's work: depictions of the almost flat Manitoba prairies and the Red River; the Rocky Mountains and their clouds, torrents and lakes; and finally the ocean, the misty inlets, and the disappearing Indian villages of the West Coast.
Phillips studied traditional Japanese printmaking techniques, and modified them into his own unique way of making prints - using as many as 14 carved woodblocks to make just one finished print. Because of the meticulous and time-consuming hand-made nature of his prints, one print in a run can be noticeably different from other prints in the same edition, sometimes due to mixing more colours during production runs, from applying varying amounts of ink to the blocks, and also from hand-altering some of the impressions while still wet - making every print virtually an "original".
Although he was an important artist with a large output of work done on the West Coast, he did little exhibiting of his work in Vancouver, other than at the Pacific National Exhbition. In addition, he exhibited his work in Salisbury and London, England; Winnipeg, Montreal, Calgary, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Venice, and Philadelphia among other places.
In 1938 he exhibited a colour wood-cut in the 55th Annual Spring Exhibition of the Art Association of Montreal. His address was given as 501 River Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba in the exhibition catalogue.
Many of his illustrations were published, and he also wrote numerous books and articles, some of which are listed below. There are also many references and biographical works on Phillips, so the reader is referred to books such as Creative Canada and Biographical Index of Artists in Canada, listed below, to use as finding aids for specific research interests.
Info in the Banff School of Fine Arts 1960 Prospectus:
"Outstanding Canadian engraver and water color artist. Educated at Bourne College, and Birmingham College of Art. Mr. Phillips has won international renown by winning the Storrow prize at the Los Angeles International in 1924, the gold medal at Boston in 1932, honorable mention at Warsaw in 1933 and 1935. Mr. Phillips has been a member of the Banff staff since 1940."
In 1982 a compilation of his writings was published, titled: PHILLIPS IN PRINT - The Selected Writings of Walter J. Phillips on Canadian Nature and Art, selected and edited by Maria Tippett and Douglas Cole. It was published by the Manitoba Record Society Publications in a limited edition of 1,000 copies individually numbered. The five sections of the book are: Pictures on the Wall, Sketching in Canada, Canadian Art, Western Canadian Art, Art of the Woodcut. Articles by Phillips on other artists include: L.L. Fitzgerald, A.C. Leighton, Thomas Fripp, Charles John Collings, Charles H. Scott, John Vanderpant, Emily Carr, and Paul Kane.
|1932 May - July||VAG All Canadian Exhibition||Pacific Coast|
|York Boats, Lake Winnipeg|
|1938 March 17 - April 10||AAM 55th Spring Exhibition||The Vapours Round the Mountain Curled|
PRINTMAKING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA 1889-1983 (refer to AGGV83)
A NEW CLASS OF ART - The Artist's Print in Canadian Art, 1877 - 1920
1996, Rosemary L. Tovell, ISBN 0-88884-655-X; published by National Gallery of Canada
Technically an exhibition catalogue of travelling show, but has extensive information.
Illustrated; includes endnotes; list of works; selected references; index
An excellent overview of an important period of Canadian printmaking
Includes information on Phillips, with four works illustrated
BEYOND THE CANVAS - Artists, Stories and the Sea by Jennifer Breckon and
James P. Delgado
Featuring the Mary and Bill Everett Family Collection
2000, ISBN 0-9695221-4-2; exhibition at the Vancouver Martime Museum; illust. in colour
Exhibition included work by Phillips
OUR CHANGING LANDSCAPE (refer to BAG08)
SHORE, FOREST AND BEYOND - ART FROM THE AUDAIN COLLECTION (refer to VAG11)
BANFF SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS - 1960 PROSPECTUS
24 pages (approx.); illustrated with student work
Art Division Staff list includes H.G. Glyde, W.J. Phillips and Janet Middleton.
THE FINE ARTS IN VANCOUVER, 1886 - 1930 (refer to THOM)
CREATIVE CANADA - VOLUME ONE, by University of Toronto Press
1971; ISBN 0-8020-3262-1
"A biographical dictionary of twentieth-century creative and performing artists."
Includes 2-1/2 full columns of concise information about Phillips
THE MOUNTAINS AND THE SKY by Lorne E. Render
1974, Glenbow-Alberta Institute; published by McClelland and Stewart West
ISBN 0-7712-1001-2; 224 pages, illustrated throughout in colour and b&w
Includes biographical information on Phillips and 21 of his paintings illustrated
THE SHELL CANADA COLLECTION (refer to SHEL77)
ROYAL CANADIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS -
EXHIBITIONS & MEMBERS 1880 - 1979 (refer to RCA81)
ARTISTS IN CANADA 1982 - UNION LIST OF ARTISTS' FILES (refer to AIC82)
MURALS FROM A GREAT CANADIAN TRAIN by Ian Thom
1986, bilingual, published by Art Global / Libre Expression
192 pages, illustrated throughout in colour and black and white
History of the murals commissioned for the Canadian Pacific Railway's Park Cars
Includes works by E.J. Hughes, W.J. Phillips, A.Y. Jackson
MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS -
SPRING EXHIBITIONS 1880 - 1970 (refer to MM88)
A DICTIONARY OF CANADIAN ARTISTS
(refer to M)
Extensive seven page biography of the artist, more than sixty references.
BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF ARTISTS IN CANADA
(refer to BIAC03)
27 references cited for Phillips, including CC1, M, and RCA listed above.
THE BOW - LIVING WITH A RIVER, edited by Gerald T. Conaty
Includes essays by G.T. Conaty, Daryl Betenia, Catharine Mastin
2004; ISBN 1-55263-634-8; Glenbow Museum, published by Key Porter Books Ltd.
160 pages, hardcover; extensively illustrated with artwork and historical photographs
Includes essays, select artist biographies, art and general bibliographies, index
Artwork by western artists includes Phillips
WATERFRONT by James P. Delgado, Executive Director, Vancouver Maritime Museum
"The illustrated maritime story of Greater Vancouver"
Published by Vancouver Maritime Museum and Stanton Atkins & Dosil Publishers
2005, ISBN 0-9732346-5-2, 186 pages hardcover first edition with dust jacket
Includes list of sources, index, credits, acknowledgements
Extensively illustrated in colour and black and white with art and photographs
Artwork reproduced from Atkins Feckless Collection includes print by Phillips
TAMING THE FRONTIER: ART & WOMEN IN THE CANADIAN WEST 1880 - 1920
July 2005; by Virgina G. Berry, copyright Margaret Berry and Julie Berry Melynk.
188 pages softcover; illustrated, footnotes, bibliography, index
Centered on Winnipeg, but has early references to Phillips.
ART INSPIRED BY THE CANADIAN ROCKIES, PURCELL
MOUNTAINS AND SELKIRK MOUNTAINS 1809-2012 (refer to TOWN12)
THE FECKLESS COLLECTION (refer to FECK18)
VANCOUVER PUBLIC LIBRARY - B.C. ARTISTS FILES (refer to VPL)
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