Quiet Nature: The Woodblock Prints of Walter J. Phillips
Quiet Nature: The Woodblock Prints of Walter J. Phillips is the third in a trio of exhibitions being celebrated at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Season Opener on Saturday, March 9. The by-donation, Public Open House will run from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and also marks the openings of Fiona Tan: Ascent and Landscapes of Edo: Ukiyo-e Prints from the AGGV Collection.
The exhibition, on display in the AGGV’s Ker Gallery until May 20, examines the work of renowned British-born print-maker Walter J. Phillips (1884-1963). Phillips emigrated to Canada, settling in Winnipeg at the age of 29, he subsequently spent many years teaching art at the Banff School of Art (now the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity) as well as Alberta’s Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, or SAIT,) before finally retiring to Victoria in 1960.
“Phillips is considered to be the artist who brought the tradition of the Japanese woodblock print to Canada,” said exhibition curator and AGGV Chief Curator, Michelle Jacques. “He had learned to make etchings from Winnipeg artist Cyril Barraud in 1915. However, attracted to the “beautiful simplicity” of woodblock printing, beginning in 1917, he set out to teach himself its methods.”
During an extended stay in England in 1924-25, Phillips connected with William Giles, one of the most innovative British printmakers of the early 20th century. Phillips learned much from Giles, and through him, met Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953), a Japanese woodblock printmaker who had moved to London in 1908. Urushibara had a successful career in London, and was influential in the revival of colour woodblock printing in England. From Urushibara, Phillips learned Japanese techniques for registering (lining up) his paper on the woodblock, and sizing his paper (treating its surface with a solution of water, gelatin and alum so that the paper is less porous and the printed image is sharper).
Quiet Nature: The Woodblock Prints of Walter J. Phillips contains work exclusively from the collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Added Jacques, “although Phillips didn’t produce any new work upon moving to Victoria, his connection to the city has influenced the AGGV’s holdings of his work. There are 140 works by Phillips in its collection; nearly half of them were donated by the artist himself. In addition, after his passing, his wife, Gladys Phillips, donated the beautiful 1957 watercolour entitled Experimental Farm, near Saanichton, to the Gallery.”
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