Walter J. Phillips was internationally acclaimed during his lifetime for his proficiency in the medium of the colour woodcut derived from the Japanese method. Through the skilful superimposition of many layers of transparent water-based inks, he created images of great beauty, subtlety, and depth. Unquestionably, Phillips produced some of the most important prints and watercolours in Canada during this period.
Glenbow owes its extraordinary Phillips collection of some 1000 works to the vision of Glenbow founder Eric Harvie who bought directly from the artist over a period of years, culminating in the remarkable purchase of 1960. That year Glenbow acquired the bulk of its massive Phillips collection and the entire contents of his Banff studio, his library and private papers (including books, journals, photographs, exhibition catalogues), illustrated books, and his personal collection of art. Glenbow's Phillips collection is the best in Canada with 175 original print blocks (including a large number of complete colour sets), 69 sketchbooks, 87 drawings, 40 watercolours, and 318 prints.