Tom Phillips was born in 1937 in Clapham, London. From 1958 to 1960 Phillips read English Literature and Anglo Saxon at St Catherine's College, Oxford. He attended life drawing classes at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, acted in plays and designed and illustrated the Isis magazine. Upon graduation he taught Art, Music and English at Aristotle Road School, Brixton, London. He also attended evening classes in life drawing (under Frank Auerbach), and sculpture at Camberwell College of Arts, where he became a full-time student in 1961.
Throughout the 1970s his works were exhibited widely in one-man shows and collections. After a period as a visiting tutor at the Art School in Kassel, Germany, he abandoned teaching and took his first trip to Africa.
With a massively varied career which covers: Film making, music writing, stage design, album cover artwork, portraiture, printmaking and collage. Tom Phillips has proved again and again that his work is highly valued and sought after in art markets spanning many decades.
By the late 1990s Phillips was an establishment figure in most aspects of the arts. He became a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, an Honorary Fellow of the London Institute, an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and a Trustee of the British Museum. He was made Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford for 2005–06.