Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Philips, Nathaniel George

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PHILIPS, NATHANIEL GEORGE (1795–1831), artist, was the youngest son of John Leigh Philips of Mayfield, Manchester, where he was born on 9 June 1795. His father, besides gaining great popularity as lieutenant-colonel commandant of the Manchester and Salford volunteers, formed a remarkable collection of books, pictures, and other works of art which, on his death in 1814, were dispersed at a sale that extended over nineteen days. Philips was educated at the Manchester grammar school, and afterwards entered the university of Edinburgh, with the intention of qualifying for the medical profession. While pursuing his medical studies he made the acquaintance, among many brilliant men then resident in Edinburgh, of Sir William Allan [q. v.] and other distinguished artists of the Scottish school. By their advice he ultimately adopted art as a profession.

The possession of a moderate competency enabled him to prepare himself thoroughly for his new vocation. In 1824 he went to Italy for three years, and so greatly was his talent appreciated in Rome that, on the death of Fuseli, he was, in 1825, elected to fill his place as a member of the academy of St. Luke. On his return to England he settled in Liverpool, where he worked industriously. He exhibited landscapes at the Liverpool Academy and the Royal Manchester Institution. The work by which he is best remembered is a series of twenty-eight engravings on copper, many of them beautifully executed by himself from his own drawings, of old halls in Lancashire and Cheshire. These were originally issued in 1822–4, and there is some doubt if more than twenty-five were then printed. All were reissued in book form in 1893, ‘with descriptive letterpress by twenty-four local contributors’ and a memoir of the artist. Philips, who also practised etching, died unmarried at his residence, Rodney Street, Liverpool, on 1 Aug. 1831. His work is remarkable for accuracy, and is bold and masterly. A drawing, in sepia, in the possession of the writer, depicts the Windmills at Bootle near Liverpool.

A portrait of Philips was introduced by Sir William Allan, P.R.S.A., in the principal group of his picture ‘The Circassian Slave.’

[Manchester School Register (Chetham Soc.); Mem. by W. Morton Philips in new edition of N. G. Philips's ‘Views,’ 1893.]

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