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Fox, Emanuel Phillips (1865–1915)

by Ruth Zubans

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865-1915), artist and art teacher, was born on 12 March 1865 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, seventh child of Alexander Fox, a Jewish photographer from London, and his Sydney-born wife Rosette, née Phillips. Fox matriculated at 15 and took early drawing lessons from John Carter. Between 1878 and 1886 he trained at the National Gallery schools under O. R. Campbell and G. F. Folingsby, together with Rupert Bunny, McCubbin, Longstaff and Tudor St George Tucker. He won awards for landscape painting at the gallery students' exhibitions in 1884 and 1886.

In February 1887 Fox left for Europe. He studied in Paris at the Académie Julian, in Gérôme's atelier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and with the American artist T. Alexander Harrison; in the summer he painted in plein air artists' communities at Etaples and in Brittany and visited Giverny. In 1890 he settled at St Ives in Cornwall, one of the key centres of plein air painting in England, and next year in Madrid copied Velasquez' works. These contacts modified his French training.

Fox returned to Melbourne in October 1892. He joined the Victorian Artists' Society and was a vocal council-member and exhibitor between 1893 and 1900. He launched one-man shows in 1892 and 1900-01, contributed to major displays in Sydney, Adelaide and Bendigo and was represented in the Australian Exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1898. Although his art was held in esteem, patronage was largely confined to portraits. In 1893 he and Tucker established to Melbourne School of Art where students were introduced to French academic practices; at its summer outdoor school, held from about 1894 at Charterisville, near Eaglemont, he taught plein air painting, incorporating some aspects of Impressionist practice. It was the most vital art school in Melbourne in the 1890s.

In 1900 the trustees of the National Gallery commissioned Fox to paint 'The landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay', which, under the terms of the Gillbee bequest, he was required to paint overseas; he departed in March 1901. After a visit to Paris he stayed at St Ives and later London. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1903, having previously shown there in 1895, and sent works elsewhere in Britain.

On 9 May 1905 at St Peter's Church, Ealing, London, Fox married Ethel Carrick; they then lived in Paris until 1913, travelling widely in Europe and northern Africa. These were fertile years in Fox's career, and his art celebrated a way of life that was leisured and elegant. From 1890 he had contributed works to the Old Salon, and in 1894 won a gold medal with his portrait 'My Cousin'; in 1906 he began exhibiting at the New Salon and elsewhere. He became a member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, an associate of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1907 and its sociétaire in 1910.

Phillips Fox and his wife came to Australia in 1908 and 1913, exhibiting and painting in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The outbreak of war brought them back to Melbourne from a trip to Tahiti, and in 1915 they helped to organize an art union in aid of war funds and the French Red Cross. On 8 October 1915 Fox died of cancer in hospital at Fitzroy, and was buried in Brighton cemetery.

A modest painter by European standards, Fox is among Australia's most gifted colourists and figure painters. Celebrated for his painting of sunlight effects, he combined Impressionist-oriented vision with an academic training. Apart from portraits and landscapes he mainly painted elegant female figures and family groups; his repertoire extended to market and Arab scenes and rural subjects. He is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all State and various regional galleries, and the Louvre, Paris.

Fox was an unassuming and reserved person. Perhaps absence of strong leadership qualities prevented him from exerting as powerful an influence as did Tom Roberts and later Max Meldrum. However, his use of colour led artists of the younger generation such as Roland Wakelin to further experiment.

His wife Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1952) was born on 7 February 1872 at Uxbridge, Middlesex, daughter of Albert William Carrick, a well-established draper, and his wife Emma, née Filmer. After education at home she joined the Guildhall School of Music, and later trained with Francis Bate and at the Slade School of Fine Art under Brown and Tonks. After her husband's death she remained in Melbourne until 1916, then lived mostly abroad, travelling extensively in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. She returned to Australia in 1925, 1933, 1940, 1948 and 1952, arranging exhibitions of their work and painting in several of the cities and along the rivers of northern New South Wales.

She first showed her work in London in 1903 and later exhibited widely in Britain, France and Australia. She was one of a group of Australian women artists who sought to establish themselves in Paris and London through joint exhibitions in Europe in the 1920s. By 1908 Carrick Fox was a member of the Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres; in 1911 she became sociétaire of the Salon d'Automne, later an associate of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and prior to 1913 was the vice-president of the International Union of Women Painters. In 1928 she won the diploma of honour at the International Exhibition of Bordeaux.

Apart from her energetic organization of various artistic undertakings in Australia during both world wars, she fought for the recognition and placement of her husband's art in major Australian galleries and criticized the limited inclusion of Impressionist works in the National Gallery of Victoria. Her works are lively and colourful: she painted market scenes, parks and flower gardens, beach and Arab scenes, genre interiors and especially flower pieces. Interesting and urbane, Ethel Carrick Fox possessed a strong and independent personality. She was an Anglican, but in the 1940s joined the Theosophical Society in Sydney. Before her death in a Melbourne hospital on 17 June 1952 she had lived at the Lyceum Club in Melbourne. Her marriage was childless.

Select Bibliography

  • L. P. Fox, E. Phillips Fox, Notes and Recollections (Syd, 1969)
  • C. B. Christesen (ed), The Gallery on Eastern Hill (Melb, 1970)
  • Geelong Art Gallery, Ethel Carrick: A Retrospective Exhibition (Cat, Geelong, 1979)
  • A. Bradley and T. Smith (eds), Australian Art and Architecture (Melb, 1980)
  • Art in Australia, 1 (1918), no 5
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 23 Jan 1891, 9 Dec 1892
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Oct 1932, 28 May 1949, 8 Nov 1958, 4 June 1974
  • Argus (Melbourne), 24 May 1952
  • Carter papers, letters received 1902-60 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Fox letters (National Gallery of Victoria)
  • McCubbin papers (MS 8525, State Library of Victoria)
  • Roberts papers, V3 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Ruth Zubans, 'Fox, Emanuel Phillips (1865–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fox-emanuel-phillips-6228/text10715, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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