Dec 11, 2021
History is an important facet of mokuhanga. It goes without saying that whatever we learn as printmakers comes from somewhere else. It’s up to us as to whether we embrace it or push it away. In this episode of The Unfinished Print I look to the past, at artist Walter J Phillips, who’s prints I have been a fan of long before I took up the art form myself.
As a British Canadian, Phillips used Canada as his muse, it’s ruggedness, power, and humanity to make his woodblock prints. Phillips was a bit of a Renaissance man, with his hand in many aspects of society and art in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from 1913-1940; and then teaching in Banff, Alberta, Canada. He was a water colourist, made etches, also tried his hand at oils but it’s his woodblock prints which have always been the most powerful of his artistic forays.
Joining me on this episode is curator Sophie Lavoie, of The Muse/Douglas Family Art Centre, a museum and gallery located in Kenora, Ontario. Sophie curated the popular Phillips Interpreted show which ran from July 16th - September 11th, 2021. She also guest curated the amazing McMichael Gallery show, Walter J Phillips: At The Lake which ran from February 15th - October 12th, 2020. Her knowledge about the life and times of Walter J. Phillips is what makes this episode special for me.
Notes: may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.
Walter J Phillips - here are various hyperlinks for information about Phillips. A great historical website dedicated to Phillips can be found, here. Phillips technique and method can be found, here. This is a modern website dedicated to Phillips, here.
etching - also called intaglio printmaking which uses chemicals on a metal plate , copper or zinc. The Tate Modern has a good definition, here.
Cyril Barraud (1877-1965) - was a British/Canadian artist who focused on etching. Roberts Gallery has a fine bio of him, here.
Winnipeg, Manitoba - Phillips spent a lot of time in Winnipeg, before moving out West to Banff in 1941 and then Victoria, British Columbia in 1948. For the history of Winnipeg, more info can be found here.
Studio International Magazine - founded in 1863 and lasted until 1964 was based in London, England. The International Studio was the American version from 1897-1921.
Pavilion Gallery Museum - based in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg the Pavillion focuses on artists from the province of Manitoba and contains many of Phillips’ works. Website, here.
brayer - is an artists tool used to spread ink or pigment onto a surface. It looks like a small roller but with a handle.
The Technique of the Colour Wood Cut (1926) - was a book published by Brown-Robertson & Co, which is Phillips describing his process of making woodblock prints. It can be found in its entirety, here.
Winnipeg Tribune - was a newspaper servicing the city of Winnipeg from 1890-1980.
Archives of Manitoba - is an online repository of the history of the province of Manitoba. More information can be found, here.
Glenbow Museum - is a museum located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Their collection is made up of Canadian artists with some international artists. More info, here.
Early 20th Century wood cuts - Sophie brings up in our interview the renaissance of early 20th wood cuts in New York. With the little bit of research of this subject it seems that many artists during the Great Depression found wood cut as an inexpensive way of creating. During this time was the Regionalist Movement where farms, industry and labour in New York were being documented through the wood cut.
The woodcut revival of the early 20th century in the US and Canada also, according to one source, was connected to the Art Deco movement, as well as German Expressionism. Not to mention the popularity of Hiroshige and of Japonisme of late 19th Century Europe. The sources for my definition can be found, here, and here. Please reach out to me if you have access to more information, as I find this fascinating.
Urushibara Yoshijirō - (1888-1953) was a Japanese carver and printmaker who lived in London, England from 1910-1940. He had arrived during the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition of 1910 and stayed until the Pacific War when he moved back to Japan. As a carver and printmaker he collaborated with many artists in England especially Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956). It has been said that Urushibara was a great influence on Phillips and his career as a woodblock printmaker from 1925. More information can be found, here, and here.
hosho - is a type of mulberry paper either hand made or machine made for many uses but especially for mokuhanga.
torinoko - a printmaking paper made of gampi as the main ingredient although there are different types of torinoko. A more detailed description can be found, here.
McMichael Gallery - located in Kleinburg, Ontario just outside of Toronto it houses the largest collection of The Group Of Seven artists. The Go7 were a collective of artists who painted the Canadian landscape, getting away from the European traditions. More info can be found here about their history.
The Great Depression - was a world economic downturn from 1929-1939. Beginning with the stock market crash of 1929 it affected people of most walks of life. More information can be found here.
Winnipeg Art Gallery Qaumajuq - is an art gallery located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It’s contains Canadian and international artists as well as a large amount of Inuit Art. More information can be found here.
The Banff School - where Phillips taught from 1940 is now called the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. More info, here.
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies - established by artists Peter and Catherine Whyte, located in Banff, Alberta. More info, here.
Truth and Beauty in the Canadian Rockies: An Explorer’s Guide to the Art of Walter J. Phillips - is a book by Lisa Christiansen about Phillips and his travels throughout Canadian Rockies. Find the book, here.
Canadian Pacific Railway - is a railway system founded in Canada in 1881 and has routes throughout southern Canada and the northern States of the US.
The National Gallery of Canada - established in 1880 in Ottawa, Ontario. The gallery contains Canadian and international pieces of art of all mediums. More info, here.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria - the largest public collection in British Columbia, and founded in 1951. More info, here.
Orientalism and The Arts and Crafts Movement - Sophie speaks a bit on the idea of Orientalism in art and how it influenced artists in the arts and crafts movement of Walter J. Phillips. This is a very large topic to cover and can’t really be done here. Briefly, Orientalism in art history, has roots in how Western artists of the 19th Century saw and represented Western Asian peoples in romantic and “mysterious” ways. It wasn’t until Edward Said (1935-2003) wrote his Orientalism in 1978 which critiques the concept of Orientalism as a racist and hegemonic, and an ultimately inaccurate and romantic, representation of the East.
John P. Crabb Gallery - located in Annisiboine Park is a gallery dedicated to Walter J. Phillips and the collection of Philips’ work acquired by Crabb himself. More info, here.
opening and closing credit background music: Sepalot - More Flute from Selected Archive (1996-2002) (2021)
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