Walter Joseph Phillips

Canadian [1884-1963]

Alberta Society of Artists, Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolours, Manitoba Society of Artists, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts

Walter 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 and his wife built a house along St. Julien on Tunnel 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 loved so much.

Walter J. Phillips is recognized today as a master of the watercolour and the woodblock print medium and his work is eagerly collected. His works are housed in galleries across Canada, including The National Gallery of Canada, The Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies as well as collections abroad in London, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Japan, and private collections the world over. The most extensive private collection of work by Phillips was gifted to the city of Winnipeg. Permanently housed in the Pavilion Gallery Museum in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park, the Crabb collection is available for public viewing year-round.

We are currently seeking works by Walter Joseph Phillips to be included in future auctions.

If you are interested in selling with us or wish to get our opinion of the value of your artworks please contact us for an appointment to evaluate your artwork for auction.

A Few Notable Results from our Auctions

Walter Joseph Phillips

OVERLOOKING THE BAY, GEORGIA STRAIT; 1937
watercolour on paper
14.5 x 21 in.

Sold for $ 30,000 (hammer price) – May 2008

Walter Joseph Phillips

AUTUMN GOLD ON PINE CREEK NEAR MIDNAPORE; 1958
watercolour on paper
15 x 18.75 in.

Sold for $ 26,000 (hammer price) – November 2008

Walter Joseph Phillips

YORK BOAT ON LAKE WINNIPEG; 1930
colour woodcut on paper; ed. #59/150
10.25 x 13.75 in.

Sold for $ 25,000 (hammer price) - May 2011

Walter Joseph Phillips

ARBUTUS TREE; 1954
watercolour on paper
16 x 17.25 in.

Sold for $ 21,000 (hammer price) – May 2008

Walter Joseph Phillips

SUMMER IDYLL; 1926
colour woodcut on paper; ed. #95/100
18 x 12 in.

Sold for $ 19,000 (hammer price) – November 2015

Walter Joseph Phillips

FALLS NEAR THE ICEFIELDS; 1950
watercolour on paper
13.5 x 21 in.

Sold for $ 16,000 (hammer price) – November 2017

Walter Joseph Phillips

WATERFOWL LAKE
watercolour on paper
14 x 21 in.

Sold for $ 13,000 (hammer price) – May 2012

Walter Joseph Phillips

MOUNTAIN TORRENT; 1926
colour woodcut on paper; ed. #50/100
8.75 x 12 in.

Sold for $ 10,000 (hammer price) - May 2015

Walter Joseph Phillips

MOUNT RUNDLE; 1950
colour woodcut on paper; ed. #19/150
8.25 x 12.5in.

Sold for $ 7,500 (hammer price) – November 2017

Since 1983, Hodgins Art Auctions is your trusted source for buying and selling art by Walter Joseph Phillips and other important Canadian artists.

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