Tom Phillips
Tom Phillips, Parc Cefn On. Llanishen - Parc Cefn On. Reflected, c. 1973, Pencil and acrylic on canvas

Tom Phillips

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Biography

TOM PHILLIPS (RA, CBE) (1937 - 2022)

Tom Phillips attended drawing classes and lectures on Renaissance iconography at Ruskin alongside his studies in English at St Catherine's College, Oxford. Taught by Frank Auerbach in 1961 at Camberwell School of Art, Phillips's first solo exhibition in London was in 1965 at the Artists International Association Gallery, followed by an exhibition with Angela Flowers in 1970. Phillips taught at Bath Academy of Art, Ipswich and Wolverhampton Art College between 1965 and 1972, and in 1969 he won the John Moores Prize, 

In the late 1960s Phillips was possibly better known for his music activities (both classical and with Cornelius Cardew's Scratch Orchestra) including his own compositions, as performed by the pianist John Tilbury.

In 1966 Phillips resolved to dedicate himself to making art out of the first secondhand book he could find for threepence on Peckham Rye. Thus began A Humument, the longest of Phillips's extended serial projects. A Humument is a radical 'treatment' of a forgotten Victorian novel by means of collage, cut-up ornament and other techniques, creating new works of art and poetic text from the original pages.. On the fiftieth anniversary of its inception in 2016, Phillips completed the sixth and final version of this work – each version with successively more pages reworked, until his original work had itself been completely transformed.

Phillips has received many commissions for site-specific artworks including tapestries for St Catherine's, Oxford, sculpture for the Imperial War Museum, street mosaics for his native Peckham, and ornament and memorials for sacred spaces, including both Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Phillips's portrait subjects have included Samuel Beckett as well as friends such as Iris Murdoch, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Richard Morphet, and the Monty Python team.

In 1989, he became the second artist to have a retrospective of his portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. Fifteen years later, he also went on to curate We Are The People, an exhibition at the NPG of his large collection of postcard photographic portraits. Phillips received the Frances Williams Memorial Prize in 1983 for his illustration and new translation of Dante's Inferno. He also made a TV version of the Inferno with Peter Greenaway which won them jointly as directors the Italia prize.

Elected to the Royal Academy in 1984, Phillips went on to chair the Academy's Library and its Exhibition Committee from 1995 to 2007, He curated the RA’s exhibition Africa: The Art of a Continent (1995) which travelled to the Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin and the Guggenheim, New York.

Serving as a trustee for the National Portrait Gallery and British Museum, Phillips was made a Commander of the British Empire for services to the Arts in 2002. In 2005, he was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, and between 2005 and 2011 he was invited as an annual Director's Visitor to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Oxford's Bodleian Library took over Tom Phillips's archive and with them he published his postcard collection in a series of books. Phillips's collaboration with Tarik O'Regan on an operatic version of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, for which he provided the libretto, was premiered at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Theatre at the end of 2011.

Tom Phillips lived and worked in London. 

Originals

Works on paper

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