Biographical Note – Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips printing on a star wheel rolling press

Michael Phillips printing on a star wheel rolling press

For more than 25 years Michael Phillips has researched the materials and methods Blake used in producing his illuminated books. His archive of research and experiments is now part of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress in association with the Blake Collection formed by Lessing J. Rosenwald. It includes photographic materials used in re-creating and perfecting replica relief-etched copper plates, papers old and new used in printing, notes of experiments in matching Blake’s coloured inks using historic pigments, and recovering his method of colour printing, as well as copper plates, proofs and sets of printed impressions, that are all now available for study.

Examples of his re-creations of Blake’s relief-etched copper plates and printed impressions are also in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, Pierpont Morgan Library, Department of Rare Books, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester, Victoria University Library, University of Toronto, the Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library of Emory University, University of Glasgow Special Collections, and the British Library, amongst other public and private collections.

Exhibitions of his re-creations of Blake's relief-etched copper plates and printed impressions from the illuminated books have been held at the Cornell Fine Art Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL., in 2009, and at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of Holy Cross, Worcester, MA., in 2013.

Research into Blake’s printmaking methods together with study of his manuscripts has also been called upon in William Blake, The Creation of the Songs, From Manuscript to Illuminated Printing (2000), in papers published in The British Art Journal and Print Quarterly, in his recent facsimile edition of the Bodleian Library copy of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (2011), and acclaimed exhibition and catalogue published by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, in 2014, William Blake Apprentice & Master.

Michael Phillips has also been guest curator of major exhibitions of Blake, in London and New York at Tate Britain and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2000 and 2001, in Paris at the Petit Palais in 2009, and most recently at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, William Blake Apprentice & Master, 4 December 2014 to 1 March 2015, that included a full-scale reconstruction of Blake’s printmaking studio in the 1790s at No. 13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth.

Michael taught at Oxford, University College London and Edinburgh University before joining the interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York, where until 2004 he offered a post-graduate MA in English and History of Art entitled ‘William Blake and the Age of Revolution’ and where he is now an Emeritus Fellow. He now lectures and gives Blake printmaking demonstrations internationally.

For his work on Blake he has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Yale Centre for British Art, British Library Centre for the Book, a British Academy Research Readership in the Humanities, Waynflete Lectureship, Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Medal of the Collège de France.