Walter Joseph Phillips

Canadian , 1884 - 1963

Walter Joseph Phillips was born at Barton-on-Humber in Lincolnshire, England in 1884. When he was still a teenager, he attended the Birmingham School of Art, once weekly, under Edward R. Taylor. As of 1908, he had traveled to South Africa and worked as a commercial artist in Manchester and London. From 1908 to 1911 he served as art master at Bishop Woodworth School in Salisbury, England.

In 1911 Phillips had his first solo show, which was a critical and financial success. He and his wife, Gladys Pitcher, emigrated to Canada in 1913. He met a fellow artist in Canada who taught the technique of etching and sold him his tools. From 1915 to 1918, Phillips produced etchings in very small editions, eventually switching to woodcut prints, a medium which he favored.

Phillips taught at the University of Wisconsin during the summers of 1917 and 1919. By 1923, his works were commanding national and international attention and he had published forty-two color woodcuts. In a particularly productive period between 1926 and 1928, Phillips produced thirty-nine color woodcuts. He had established his own technique of making woodcuts: a graphite sketch, a finished watercolor, an additional sketch to compose the woodcut and then the final print.

During the Great Depression, Phillips was among a small handful of artists who were able to make a living off of the sale of his paintings and woodcuts. Between the years of 1925 and 1935, his subjects were mostly from the Prairies, but by 1946, they were mainly from the Rocky Mountains.

Phillips became a member of the Banff Summer School of Fine Arts in 1940 and in the following year, he moved to Calgary where he became an instructor at the Institute of Technology and Art, where he remained until 1949. When his eyesight began to fail in 1960, Phillips retired to Victoria, where he died in 1963.
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