Tom Phillips (4)

It was Tom Phillips’s funeral today – in St. James’s, Piccadilly, very appropriately, as the Royal Academy’s church, and body less, which is apparently unusual because he had given his body to science.

It was extraordinarily powerful because Tom knew so many people and he knew so much about music.   In fact, one felt he was there in the choice and perhaps he was, starting with Julia Neuberger reading from Ecclesiastes, followed by James Atkinson accompanied by Iain Burnside singing Brahms’s ‘O Tod wie bitter bist du’ (I am recording them because you felt he and Fiona were drawing from the deepest knowledge of what would be suitable).   Then, Simon Callow on the experience of being painted by him. It was oddly and completely impersonal – the focus not on the person, but the look, which was a touch disconcerting.   Then, Joanna MacGregor playing Schubert’s ‘Impromptu No.3.’   Music conveyed the wealth and depth of his knowledge, his belief in the power of art, about which not so much was said, but which made it somehow the more personal, because his art was informed by such an extraordinary breadth of knowledge.   Followed by Bach ‘Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit’.   It was sublime.   And his children spoke and Brian Eno and David Attenborough.   St. Peter must have been impressed.

Before the service, the sun shone on the Grinling Gibbons reredos of the Pelican Feeding its Young:-


One thought on “Tom Phillips (4)

  1. Cynthia Grant says:

    From today’s letters page 

    Art and life

    SIR – I was sad to hear of the death of Tom Phillips (Obituaries, December 6).

    I was a student of Fine Art at Bath Academy of Art in the late 1960s, when he was employed as a teacher and lecturer. He taught a life-drawing class – a six-week module – during which the model did not turn up once.
    Not at all fazed by this, he made us draw the chair and read us Schopenhauer for the two-hour period. He wove a fantastic story of the non-existent model, named her “the Duchess”, and made up a different explanation for her non-appearance each week.
    It was very entertaining, and I got better and better at drawing the chair.

    Suzanne Lawler,
    Bridgnorth, Shropshire

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