Tom Phillips was born in London in 1937. He attended St Catherine’s College, Oxford in 1957, where he read English and at the same time studied drawing at the Ruskin School. In 1961 he became a student at Camberwell School of Art where his chief source of inspiration was Frank Auerbach. He went on to teach at Bath Academy of Art, Ipswich and Wolverhampton Art College between 1965 and 1972.
Phillips’s first solo show was in 1965 at the Artists International Association Gallery in London, followed by an exhibition at the Angela Flowers Gallery in 1970. He won a prize at The John Moores Liverpool Exhibition in 1969 and subsequently went on to exhibit in many solo and group exhibitions around the world. Two early exhibitions of particular significance were the 1973 showing of ‘A Humument’ in its entirety at the ICA, London and the 1975 retrospective at the Kunsthalle in Basel. In 1989 he had a solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (which holds his portrait of Dame Iris Murdoch) and in 1993 a major exhibition of his work was held at the Royal Academy of Arts. To celebrate his 60th birthday in 1997, retrospectives of his work were held at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the South London Gallery. In 2001 an exhibition of his drawings was held at the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, and in 2006 a micro retrospective at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Phillips was Vice-Chair of the Copyright Council from 1985 to 1989 and Chairman of the Royal Academy’s Exhibitions Committee from 1995 to 2007. which subsequently travelled to the Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. He was appointed a Member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers and Engravers in 1987 and an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1999. He is an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, Leeds University (Bretton Hall) and the London Institute as well as an Honorary Member of the Royal Institute, He was Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1998 to 2006 and a Trustee of the British Museum from 1999 to 2006 and in that year was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University. Since 2005 he has been an annual visitor to the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Princeton.
Phillips is also a writer and a composer. His musical compositions include the opera Irma and the song suite Six of Hearts and theatre projects include designing The Winter’s Tale for the opening season of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, translating and designing Otello for the ENO in 1998, and designing Simon Callow’s production of The Magic Flute at Opera Holland Park in 2008. He is currently working with composer Tarik O Regan on a chamber opera of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Tom Phillips Still lives and works in South London.