In our continued effort to exhibit exceptional works of quality, Loch Gallery is proud to present watercolours and woodcuts by Walter J. Phillips. The exhibition features a variety of subjects: Lake of the Woods, Rocky Mountains and the West Coast.
Walter J. Phillips was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1884. From early on his artistic talent was evident and when he was 14, he used scholarship earnings towards tuition at the Birmingham School of Art. After living in South Africa, Phillips worked as a commercial artist in Manchester before becoming Art Master at Bishop Woodworth School in Salisbury. In 1911 and 1912, his watercolours were showcased at exhibitions in Salisbury and the Royal Academy in London which garnered critical praise and financial success.
Inspired by tales from cousins who immigrated to Canada, Phillips and his wife moved to Winnipeg in 1913, where he taught and continued to paint. His early subjects focused on Lake of the Woods and Lake Muskoka, favourite family holiday spots. Soon after, he would foray into printmaking by taking up etching. After producing 30 etchings, Phillips would delve into the woodblock medium, which allowed him to utilize a spectrum of colour rather than depend on cross hatching and his skills as a draughtsman. He also taught art courses at the University of Wisconsin and was fully immersed in printmaking, producing sophisticated compositions for a self-taught artist.
In 1925, Phillips studied Japanese printmaking methods in England with other artists; back in Winnipeg he published "The Technique of the Colour Woodcut", wrote a newspaper arts column and visited the Rocky Mountains. During this prolific period, Phillips ventured to the West Coast, visiting Alert Bay and Village Island, locales which soon emerged in his oeuvre. Two portfolios of woodcuts were published in 1927 and 1928 reflecting his travels. In the depression years of the1930s, his poetic and luminous portrayals of nature allowed him to support himself.
In 1940, Phillips was invited to teach at the Banff School of Art and a year later in at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary. Phillips exploited his new surroundings by capturing the dynamism of the Rocky Mountains in watercolour. In1960, Phillips retired to Victoria, BC, where he experienced vision problems and would go blind. At the time of his death, Walter J. Phillips was 78 years old.