The Winnipeg Tribune, May 4, 1936
Article on Folio “Winter Wood Cuts” done by Walter J. Phillips, R.C.A
witten by Alex. J. Musgrove, D.A. (G.S.A.) under pen name Ivanhoe.
A beautiful souvenir of one of Winnipeg’s most thorough-going sessions with the ice-king is at hand while the snow is still on the ground, while cold blasts still descend from the semi-frigid north. This is a portfolio picture which bears the general title “Winter Wood-Cuts,” by Walter J. Phillips, R.C.A. (Nelson and Sons, Toronto). Although Winnipeg’s famous painter is a native of England, he has lived in our city for ss many years that he knows all the fine points about winter sunshine and the shadows thrown upon the snow by the branches and trunks of trees either in the woods or in a city street. Of the fifteen studies in this collection, two of the most striking are “Our Street,” which depicts a row to trees nearly opposite the Gordon Bell Junior High school. The black tree trunks stand out with startling distinction above the white snow-banks and the reddish color of the school away in the background to the left and of the houses on the right hand side of the street, also in the far background, offers an equal contrast. In my opinion this is one of the finest pieces of work that Mr. Phillips has ever done. It illustrates his power to see the beauty in “the common things that round us lie.”
A second picture entitled “Reine” shows the bare trees in a city street glorified by the fingers of the frost. This is a good companion picture to follow “Our Street.”
In the pictures entitled, “Tree Shadows on Snow”, we wander far from city streets into little bluffs on the prairie where bushes and trees cast blue shadows on the snow. Until Mr. Phillips opened my eyes, I must confess I never noticed these delicate wavering shadows weave their patterns everywhere. One of the best of these quiet pictures shows a little boy leaning against a sturdy tree. He is in winter costume and has propped his snowshoes near him against a tree. His red woollen cap drawn down over his ears and his red sweater offer a decided contrast to the white snow at his feet and the blue tracery of the shadows behind him and to left of him. There must be at least twenty-five trees in the background of this picture; they are all naked, smooth trunks with neither branch nor twig in evidence/
Now when he chose a subject “Little Log House” Mr. Phillips branched out, so to speak. The house, a very small affair, has a large snowy expanse in front of it, bare except for three or four little bushes which are also bare. But right across the picture is a clump of trees each one of which spreads fan-wise against a bluish-grey sky and each tree has a crown of dead leaves.
I have given a few details about some of Mr. Philip’s winter scenes but I wish to say further that two of the largest pictures in his collection are not Manitoba subjects, nor are they wintry in character. One represents the straight blue reach of Agamemnon Channel, B.C., with its blue background of August snow-crowned mountain peaks, the other reminds us of summer days on the Lake of the Woods. It depicts the lake as seen in a smoke haze with dark wooded islands in the background and a wan sun setting in a sandy sky. A lovely feature of this misty picture is a branch of vivid green and brown creepers let down from above close up to the place where the painter sketched the scene. No doubt many people will prefer these two larger out-of-town pictures, but my first choice is “Our Street.”
In a pamphlet which accompanies this portfolio, Mr. Phillips explains just how he makes a color wood-cut. It is very complicated art, requiring infinite care and patience. Mr. Phillips says that his method has been refined by practice until now it approximates the traditional meth of Japan. He evolved it himself, however, by means of trial and error. He owned a few Japanese prints but d no textbook to guide him. He made forty-four color prints before meeting William Giles and Yoshijiro Urushibara in London, two artists to whom he tender his thanks for aid and advice. Mr Phillips has long since won world fame because of his mastery of this difficult art, and the present portfolio, only one hundred copies of which have been issued for sale, will certainly uphold his high reputation.
“I V A N H O E”