John Philip – Biography

Below is a short biography of John Philip who was popularly known as ‘Spanish Philip’ because of his paintings that portrayed the Spanish Life. He was inspired by Sir David Wilkie and William Hogarth.

John Philip Biography

John Philip was born into a poor family in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was born on the 19th of April to an old soldier. He showed his interest in art at a very tender age. He used to work as an errand boy to a tinsmith with whose colors he would paint coarse pictures.

A Self Portrait of John Philip
A self-portrait of John Philip (1817 – 1867)

At the age of fifteen, he apprenticed with ‘Spark’, an artist of his time who lived at Wallace Nook in the same town.

John Philip Paintings

He developed his likenesses whilst learning from him. He painted a signboard for a basket maker which was the source of his first ever earning.

Lord Panmure Portrait
A portrait of Lord Panmure, 11th Earl of Dalhousie.

Lord Panmure, the 11th Earl of Dalhousie recognized his talent and paid for his training under Thomas Musgrave Joy that took place in London.

John Philip Sousa Facts

In 1836, he went to the Royal Academy of Arts which was also paid for by Lord Panmure. In the academy, he was an active learner. He became a member of ‘The Clique’.

Richard Dadd Portrait
A portrait of Painter Richard Dadd.

It was a group of aspiring artists at the academy which was led by Richard Dadd. Richard Dadd was known for his beautiful paintings of supernatural objects like the depiction of fairies.

Early Life of John Philip

‘The Clique’ were followers of Hogarth – a famous English cartoonist and Wilkie – a Scottish painter. Philip himself studied Wilkie’s work very carefully in order to learn to detail like him.

David Wilkie Self Portrait
A self-portrait of David Wilkie.

As David Wilkie painted Scottish life and people, Philip decided to paint scenes of the lifestyles and people of Spanish cultures. He is known to have been influenced by Murillo and Velazquez.

John Philip’s Career as an Artist

Most of John Philip’s early work depicted Scottish families and their lifestyles. But, in 1851, he visited the south of Europe and went to Spain for medical treatments of his own. There he was inspired by Spanish living and lifestyle. He started painting Spanish festivals, people, foods and other things.

Detailed Oil Painting By John Philip
A detailed oil painting by John Philip at the Scottish National Gallery.

In the beginning, he was known to oppose the Pre Raphaelite movement along with the entire group of the Clique. However, he was friends with John Everett Millais, the founder of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Carnival Time by John Philip

He was highly influenced by travel and travel art and encouraged many painters to involve themselves in travel art. Edwin Long was inspired by John.

John Philip
‘Carnival Time’, Spain, 1860 by John Philip

La Gloria  by John Philip

In 1864, he painted ‘The Early Career of Murillo’ and ‘La Gloria’ in the following year. These were exhibited at the National Gallery of Scotland. He also painted the royal wedding of Princess Royal to Prince Frederick William of Prussia.

philip john la gloria
John Philip – La Gloria: A Spanish Wake; National Galleries of Scotland

Evil Eye By John Philip

John painted his self-portrait and called it the ‘Evil Eye’. It was bought by Patrick Alan Frazer and still hangs at the Hospitalfield House in Arbroath, Scotland along with portraits of other members of the Clique.

John Philip Self Portrait Evil Eye
‘Evil Eye’ by John Philip in 1859.

Personal Life

John married the sister of Richard Dadd. She had a mental disorder just like her brother Richard.

Death of John Philip

John Philip died on 27th February 1867 out of a stroke at the age of 50. He died in Kensington, on his way to visit William Powell Frith. He is still respected for his accurate portrayal of the Spanish Culture and traditions.

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