Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips

Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips - Heffel Gallery

Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips

1884 - 1963
ASA CPE CSPWC RCA

Walter Phillips came to Canada from England in 1913, settling in Winnipeg where he taught at St. John’s Technical School. He began etching in 1915, learning the technique from Cyril Barraud and quickly mastering it. In 1916, the National Gallery of Canada purchased two etchings, but Phillips was not satisfied with the colour limitations of this medium and turned to the woodcut, learning the technique himself. In 1917 he produced Winter, a remarkable accomplishment in a new and difficult medium. Within two years Phillips’s woodcuts were reproduced in The Studio, and his virtuosity was fully apparent. He would return to England in September of 1924, where he met Yoshijiro Urushibara, a master printmaker visiting from Japan, who taught Phillips the importance of sizing, a gelatinous mixture applied to the printing paper. Critical to Phillips’s work, sizing gave his woodcuts the perfection of tone and surface, the fine layering of crisply transferred colour, and delicate silken surface that characterizes them.

In 1925 Phillips returned to Canada. He produced prints and watercolours regularly and wrote the book The Technique of the Colour Woodcut in 1926. He began a series of print portfolios, producing Ten Canadian Colour Prints in 1927, and The Canadian Scene in 1928. The majority of his woodcut work was done in the 1930s, and he published a portfolio of wood engravings, An Essay in Woodcuts in 1930. In 1931 he completed the portfolio Ten Woodcuts, as well as 21 wood engravings for Dreams of Fort Garry. The portfolio Winter Woodcuts was published in 1936. He did the illustrations for Frederick Niven’s 1937 book Colour in the Canadian Rockies.

Phillips’s lyrical style was based directly on the tenets of Art Nouveau presented with the technical perfection of the Japanese prints that he so admired. The iconic York Boats on Lake Winnipeg, 1930, used decorative line and flowing, organic movement - all presented in a soft blend of colours - with the areas of grain from his carefully chosen wood showing clearly in the work. In 1929, he produced Karlukwees, BC, one his most beloved and beautiful images.

Phillips exhibited regularly across North America and was active in print societies internationally. Six of his prints were included in the Detroit Art Institute’s 1919 Wood Block Prints in Colour by American Artists. He was represented by Brownhead Coutts in London and Brown-Robertson in New York, and showed 93 works in the graphic art section of the Canadian National Exhibition in 1930. A member of the RCA from 1921, he became an academician in 1933.

In 1940 Phillips was invited to teach in Alberta, and in 1942 moved to Calgary to manage positions there and in Banff. Moving to Banff in 1948, he taught 20 summer sessions, painting watercolours of the surrounding peaks and built a circle of artist friends that included Belmore Browne, Carl Rungius, and Peter and Catharine Whyte.

In 1953, his eyesight failing, Phillips had an unsuccessful operation for glaucoma. In 1954 he was asked to paint the Strathcona Park Car for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s The Canadian. After retiring from teaching in 1959, Phillips was given an honorary Doctorate by the University of Alberta in 1960 and moved to Victoria that year. He would be completely blind by 1961, and died in Victoria in 1963.

Copyright Heffel Gallery Limited

Heffel 's Top Results
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Karlukwees, BC
10 1/2 x 12 1/2in 26.7 x 31.7cm
1929
colour woodcut

Estimate:  $20,000 - $30,000 CDN
Sold for:   $93,600 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Fall 2013 - 2nd Session auction on Thursday, November 28, 2013
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Karlukwees, BC
10 1/2 x 12 3/8in 26.7 x 31.4cm
1929
colour woodcut on paper

Estimate:  $30,000 - $50,000 CDN
Sold for:   $67,250 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2017 - 2nd Session auction on Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Karlukwees, BC (Siwash Winter Village)
14 x 11 7/8in 35.6 x 30.2cm
circa 1927
watercolour on paper

Estimate:  $20,000 - $30,000 CDN
Sold for:   $64,350 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Fall 2012 - 2nd Session auction on Thursday, November 22, 2012
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Karlukwees, BC
10 1/2 x 12 1/2in 26.7 x 31.7cm
1929
colour woodcut on paper

Estimate:  $30,000 - $40,000 CDN
Sold for:   $56,050 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2015 - 2nd Session auction on Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Garden Bay, BC
21 x 30in 53.3 x 76.2cm
watercolour on paper

Estimate:  $15,000 - $20,000 CDN
Sold for:   $46,800 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2011 - 2nd Session auction on Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Mountain Torrent
11 1/2 x 13 1/2in 29.2 x 34.3cm
circa 1926
watercolour on paper

Estimate:  $10,000 - $15,000 CDN
Sold for:   $46,000 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's May 2006 - 2nd Session auction on Saturday, May 27, 2006
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Mamalilicoola, BC
12 x 14in 30.5 x 35.6cm
1928
colour woodcut on paper

Estimate:  $20,000 - $30,000 CDN
Sold for:   $44,250 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2015 - 2nd Session auction on Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Mamalilicoola, BC
12 x 13 7/8in 30.5 x 35.2cm
1928
colour woodcut

Estimate:  $10,000 - $15,000 CDN
Sold for:   $40,950 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2010 - 2nd Session auction on Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
Karlukwees, BC
10 1/2 x 12 1/2in 26.7 x 31.7cm
1929
colour woodcut

Estimate:  $20,000 - $30,000 CDN
Sold for:   $40,950 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2012 - 2nd Session auction on Thursday, May 17, 2012
Record Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art   Walter Joseph (W.J.) Phillips
York Boat on Lake Winnipeg
10 1/4 x 13 3/4in 26 x 34.9cm
1930
colour woodcut on paper

Estimate:  $15,000 - $20,000 CDN
Sold for:   $40,250 CDN (premium included)

At Heffel's Spring 2017 - 2nd Session auction on Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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