Walter Joseph Phillips
1884 - 1963
Born in 1884 in Barton-Upon-Humber, England, Phillips studied art in Birmingham before pursuing a career as a teacher and commercial artist. Despite enjoying early success as a watercolourist in Britian, Phillips emigrated to Canada, settling in Winnipeg in June 1913. He took up the position as art instructor at St John's Technical High School and quickly established himself in Winnipeg's young art community. Phillips soon became friends with another expatriate Englishman, Cyril H. Barraud, who in 1915 imparted to Phillips a love for the technical craft of printmaking, and etching in particular. Upon Barraud's enlistment in the Canadian army, Philllips purchased his printing press and equipment. In 1917 Phillips began to teach himself colour woodcut printing in the manner of the Japanese artists and within 2 years he was catching the attention of the important British art magazine Studio. Throughout the '20s and '30s, Phillips was Canada's most famous printmaker, exhibiting throughout Britain, the United States and Canada, and joined many prestigious international printmakers societies.
Phillips influenced several generations of printmakers and almost single-handedly made the colour woodcut popular with artists across the country through the example of his work and the technical manual he wrote. In Winnipeg he not only taught many fine printmakers, he also became the city's chief art critic, writing a regular art column for the Winnipeg Herald. In 1926 he helped found the Manitoba Society of Artists. He passed away in Victoria, B.C. in 1963.