Skip to main content

Tom Phillips archive


  • How to

Diaries and notebooks; correspondence; working papers and materials for several literary works, printed illustrations and librettos; published programmes, journals etc. referring to Phillips; audio-visual material.


  • Creation: c. 1947-2013


49.0 Linear metres (305 shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to copy material must be obtained from the rights holder.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference if available, e.g. MS. Tom Phillips 5].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Tom Philllips 1-304, MS. Photogr. c. 570.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 9512, 6464, 6355, 6315, 7068


Correspondence and papers of the English artist Tom Phillips, c. 1947-2013.

Biographical / Historical

Tom Phillips (1937-2022) was an English painter, printmaker, illustrator, sculptor, translator, composer, librettist and set designer. He studied English Literature and Anglo-Saxon at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and was taught by Frank Auerbach while studying art at Camberwell School of Art from 1961 to 1963.

During his early career, Phillips taught art and art history at Ipswich, Bath and Wolverhampton art schools, teaching, among others, the musician Brian Eno. A notable portrait artist (several of his paintings hang in the National Portrait Gallery), Phillips' other works include tapestries for St. Catherine's College, sculpture for the Imperial War Museum, and art and memorials for churches, including both Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. His musical works include the experimental opera Irma (1970) and translating and designing Verdi's Otello for the English National Opera in 1998.

Phillips curated a 2004 National Portrait Gallery exhibition ( We Are The People) of his collection of postcard portraits from the early 20th century, following his book on the subject, The Postcard Century (2000). He was lead curator for the Africa: The Art of a Continent exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1995, and also published a book on African goldweights.

A translator and book creator/publisher, Phillips' longest-running project is his transformed version of W H Mallock's 1892 novel A Human Document, which he has altered with drawing, painting and collage and published in various forms as A Humument (1966-), including as an iPad app in 2010. Phillips also illustrated, translated, and published a version of Dante's Inferno and worked on a televised version, A TV Dante, directed by Peter Greenaway.

He served as exhibitions committee chairman for the Royal Academy (1985-2007), and as a trustee at both the British Museum (1999-2006) and the National Portrait Gallery. In 2005-2006 he served as the Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford and from 2005-2011 he was invited as an annual Director's Visitor to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired between 2007-2013 from Tom Phillips.

Related Materials

See also MS. Mus. a.8 (sketches and other material related to Heart of Darkness, a chamber opera by Tarik O'Regan and Tom Phillips). Copies of Phillips' books, including A Humument, can be found via the Bodleian's library catalogue (SOLO).

Catalogue of the Tom Phillips archive, c. 1947-2013
Finding aid prepared by Charlotte McKillop-Mash
Language of description
Script of description
Finding aid note
Cataloguing assistance provided by Katy Haigh.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom