Glyn Philpot studied at Lambeth Art School with Philip Connard and in 1906 with Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian in Paris. He was influenced by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon but especially by studying the Old Masters, particularly Titian. He was brilliant at building up a picture with successive glazes over underpainting.
In 1906 Philpot converted to Catholicism, to the consternation of his Baptist family. In 1908 he travelled to Spain and the following year painted Manuelito, which made his reputation. Philpot’s painterly brushwork, striking compositions and air of Old Masterly gravitas gained him a comfortable living as a Society portraitist. At the same time, he made many figure studies and painted classical and religious subjects. The dog rose (La zarzarrosa), 1910-11 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), a depiction of a dancer resting backstage, painted with Velázquez-like brio, was a great critical success. It was bought by a member of the Mond family, who became major patrons. Philpot’s increasing prosperity allowed him to make his first visit to Italy and many more trips to Paris. In 1913 Philpot won a gold medal at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh. Unfit for active service in the First World War, he became a war artist, painting portraits of admirals.
Philpot was elected ARA in 1915 and RA in 1923. In 1927 he bought a house at Baynards, Sussex, where he made the large bronze Oedipus replying to the Sphinx. In 1930 Philpot was a member of the jury (along with Matisse) for the Carnegie International Exhibition. From 1931 to 1935 he maintained a studio in Paris, where he initially concentrated on sculpture. In the 1930s Philipot was influenced by currents of international Modernism, including the work of Gaudier-Brzeska, Picasso and the Neue Sachlichkeit. He radically changed his style, abandoning the use of glazes in favour of a dryer, direct touch, palette of chalky brightness and simplified outlines in works such as Melancholy negro, 1936 (Royal Pavilion, Brighton) and the elegant portrait of his friend and protegé Vivian Forbes, 1936 (private collection). Philpot produced complex, mystical subject pictures in this new style, including the erotic The Great Pan, 1933 (destroyed), which was banned from the Royal Academy exhibition, to the glee of the press. From 1935 to 1937 Philpot painted watercolours in North Africa and the South of France, which were exhibited at the Syrie Maugham Gallery (1935) and the Redfern Gallery (1937).
The work of Glyn Philpot is represented at Tate Britain, London; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Leeds City Art Galleries; Glasgow Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.