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Phillips, Claude, Sir

    Full Name: Phillips, Claude, Sir

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1846

    Date Died: 1924

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom


    First keeper of the Wallace Collection,1897-1912; critic. Phillips was the son of Robert Abraham Phillips and Helen Levy (Phillips). His father was a jeweler and his maternal uncle, Joseph Moses Levy (1812-1888), was the founder of the Daily Telegraph newspaper. After initial education in Germany and France, Phillips graduated from London University with both a B. A. and a master’s degree. He studied law, joined the Inner Temple (a professional society licensing barristers), and admitted to the bar in 1883. Traveling to Italy for legal business, Phillips fed a personal interest in art and music. This knowledge allowed him to write criticism for the Daily Telegraph in the late 1880’s. Though initially on music, he later turned to art. A series of monograph on major artists in The Portfolio Artistic Monographs series, and a larger monograph on Joshua Reynolds in 1894 resulted in a permanent art critic position for him at the paper in 1897. Phillips also submitted more scholarly articles to Fortnightly Review, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Art Journal, and the Magazine of Art. His articles discussed contemporary artists such as Gustav Moreau and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and critiqued exhibitions at the New Gallery in London. Articles to the Burlington Magazine included discoveries of new masterworks; he was eventually appointed to the journal’s consultative committee. The administrators of the nascent Wallace Collection appointed Phillips its first “Keeper” (curator) in 1897. Phillips cataloged the collection identifying a “school of Titian” painting, a “Perseus and Andromeda,” as an original. Two monographs on Titian, The Earlier Work of Titian,1897, and The Later Work of Titian,1898, followed. The Wallace Collection (museum) opened in Hertford House in 1900. After the founding of National Art Collections Fund in 1903, Phillips became a noted supporter. He amassed a large personal collection of painting and sculpture, including “Young Mother” and “Despair” by Auguste Rodin (today, Victorian and Albert Museum), and the “Pietà” by Dosso Dossi. In 1910 and 1912, Phillips reviewed two Post-Impressionist exhibitions at the Grafton Galleries in London. He retired in 1911, succeeded by D. S. MacColl, and received a knighthood. In his retirement years, he mounted a public concern for the National Gallery when it appeared to be a target in the First World War. He died at his Kensington, London, home where he lived with his sister, Eugénie, in 1924. He is buried at Kensal Green cemetery. Phillips bequeathed half of his collection to the National Gallery in London, as well as several other European museums. His collected essays, Emotion in Art appeared a year after his death. Phillips’ art-criticism approach to art history helped established art writing as a respectable form (Sutton), at a time before connoisseurship standards were codified (MacColl/Lloyd). he was not research scholar. The London Times described his criticism as “sound rather than brilliant.” He was conversant with the art literature in French, German, and Italian. A celibate homosexual in the tradition of Oscar Wilde, he was a gregarious, perfumed dandy (though physically stout), “who talked continuously while he looked at the pictures” (Brown).

    Selected Bibliography

    Brockwell, Maurice W., ed. Emotion in Art. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924; The Later Work of Titian. London: Seeley and Co., 1898; Sir Joshua Reynolds. London: Seeley and Co., 1894.


    Sutton, Denys. “Phillips, Sir Claude.” The Dictionary of Art; Sutton, Denys. “Sir Claude Phillips: First Keeper of the Wallace Collection. ” Apollo 116 (1982): 322-32; Brown, Oliver. Exhibitions: the Memoirs of Oliver Brown. 1968, p. 35; MacColl, D. S., and Lloyd, Christopher. “Phillips, Sir Claude (1846-1924).” Dictionary of National Biography; [obituaries:] Tatlock, R. R. Burlington Magazine, 45 (1924): 105-6; “Sir Claude Phillips.” The Times (London) August 11, 1924, p. 12.


    "Phillips, Claude, Sir." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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