Walter J. Phillips York Boat on Lake Winnipeg, 1930 Colour woodcut on paper, 29.5 x 38.3 cm Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery (1981.25.14). Bequest of Dr. Jean E. Murray

February 12 to June 5, 2011 – Art Gallery of Alberta

Walter J. Phillips: Water & Woods shines a spotlight on a quiet figure in the history of Canadian art. Featuring Walter J. Phillips’ (1884-1963) watercolours and woodcuts, the exhibition also includes rarely seen works produced early in the artist’s career.
In 1913, Phillips and his family left their home in England to move to Canada. By that time, Phillips was already an established artist, who often approached nature through the lens of the picturesque. In nature he sought beauty, which for him was the ultimate aim of art.
Using his home in Manitoba, and later Alberta, as a base, Phillips travelled throughout western Canada and in doing so embarked on a remarkable study of place. In his work, natural and built environments often intersect. His subject matter ranged from the cottage country of Lake of the Woods, to the vernacular architecture of small Prairie towns. He captured vistas from popular hiking trails surrounding Banff, and scenes of aboriginal and Japanese fishing villages in British Columbia. Phillips shifted his approach to his surroundings, in both palette and subject matter, depending on his location. He created an absorbing visual record of his adopted country and become a key, but often unrecognized, figure within the Canadian art scene.

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