|This biography from the archives of www.AskART.com. |
Born in Hudson, New York, at the age of fifteen, he began five years of study in New York City at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. He spent several years painting professionally in New York, and in 1894 went to England and then to Paris where he attended the Academie Julian and met artists Joseph Henry Sharp and Ernest Blumenschein, who would become lifetime friends.
Sharp told them about the opportunities of painting around Taos, New Mexico, and in the summer of 1898, Phillips and Blumenschein met in Denver to sketch in the Rocky Mountains. In the autumn, they bought a team and wagon and went South with the idea of going to Mexico, but the wheel on their wagon broke. Phillips stayed behind and Blumenschein went for help to the nearest blacksmith, who was in Taos. Both men were so taken with the scenery, they abandoned their Mexico trip and rented studios in Taos. Phillips stayed on, but Blumenschein returned to New York and continued for many years to travel back and forth.
Phillips was the key, founding figure in what became known at the Taos Art Colony, and early members officially formed the Taos Society of Artists. Because there were no galleries then in Taos, they displayed their art work to tourists from their studios and worked to get attention from other parts of the county.
By 1915, over 100 artists where working there. Phillips sent his work East for exhibition with Blumenschein but rarely left Taos although occasionally he painted in Arizona and other surrounding Southwestern States. He married Miss Rose Martin, sister of the famous local doctor, "Doc Martin" who was a popular personality with visitors.
Modernist art went by Phillips, whose subjects were Taos Pueblo Indians, done in realistic style but conveyed romantically, often with "props" from Phillips extensive collection of Indian artifacts. He was especially fascinated by their colorful dress and daily activities. His failing eyesight caused him to give up painting completely, but the vivid, colorful paintings he created gave a special lasting view of Pueblo life.