Tuesday 20 December 2011

Walter Phillips' 'Rundle'

Here at last is your chance to own a Walter Phillips colour woodcut without breaking the bank. It's up for sale on UK ebay for another eight days and stands at £51 though I doubt it will stay there longer.

I hasten to add this is not the image used on ebay but one I have edited from elsewhere. I am certain it will look alot better when you see it and if I hadn't been going away I might have considered it myself. Phillips is quite masterly though whether he actually learned how to make colour woodcuts on his own and without reference to Frank Morley Fletcher as he once claimed is another matter. He was brought up in Britain but first moved to South Africa for a couple of years before settling in Winnepeg where he led the colour woodcut movement.

But there is nothing very British about him and our loss was Canada's gain.


  1. Happy New Year Charles. I have to say your featured version of Rundle is a slightly more appealing version of the one that sold on Ebay, which seemed to be a bit faded, but we cannot deduce from Ebay photos. I did want to mention to you that Phillips returned to England after emigrating to Canada. He became friends through correspondence with William Giles, who then encouraged him to return to England and study with him, but both of them studied under Urushibara. This information was confirmed with my correspondence with Urushibara's son and through research via the V&A. It is true he was self taught prior to that, and it was with questions pertaining to techniques and paper etc, that led him to begin writing to Giles in the first place. It was all very civilized and very sophisticated, and very English. I am strongly inclined to believe that this is true, as his works are distinct and easy to categorize by period. One more thing that you might want to look at. Phillips studied at the same time as Seaby and Giles in London in the same classes, and there are distinct similarities between Seaby's landscapes and Phillips' prints as well as some of the more appealing and watery Japanese aesthetics featured in Urushibara/Brangwyn collaborations and those of Giles. What do you think? When Seaby moved from his ornithological studies and did landscapes, they are strongly reminiscent of many of the winter landscapes of Phillips. However, I would also say that on the subject of landscapes, Phillips was the clear winner.

  2. Seaby was often a poor picture-maker and I agree about the similarities between the two. The very fact that Phillips work was featured so often in The Studio suggests a continuing link with the old country but I'm not convinced that Canada was the best place for him. It strikes me that he was catching up with the British artists rather than innovating.

    I am curious about what you say about Phillips training in England. So far as I am aware Seaby and Giles studied in some fashion or another with Fletcher in Reading. I did't think anyone was teaching formal classes in London after about 1910

    I am also surprised to hear Giles studied with Urushibara because he had established himself before Urushibara began to make prints in the UK. He was certainly giving demonstrations in London and Paris but I think he had just as much to learn from them as they did from him. He was a reproductive artist at heart and frankly some of his work (the flower pieces in particular) come over as (I choose my words with care) unexciting.

    But what you say is all food for thought nevertheless.


  3. I am absolutely sure of it, in fact Urushibara's son in Tokyo still has correspondence between his father and William Giles, as they maintained a firm friendship years later. I am also 100% sure that Phillips studied under Urushibara, and at the same time as Seaby. I think the similarities between them are interesting and there is a thread. Of course Giles went on to do his own thing, but the influence of Urushibara in the Phillips works is evident. Perhaps Urushibara's son will be kind enough to share some of the letters with us. I have heard Giles was a constant and dedicated writer...this doesn't surprise me though. He was a bit of an eminent Victorian to steal a line for Mr. Strachey.

  4. I must have a second look at the Urushibara stuff. It would be very valuable to have access to the Urushibara/Giles correspondence.

    It struck me while I was travelling across southern Italy last week just how well Giles had interpreted the Italian landscape.

    Greeting from Himara, Albania. Charles