What’s distinctive about Phillips? What about his style speaks to the contemporary collector, even though he was working 100 years ago?
Phillips is one of the most recognizable illustrators of the first half of the twentieth century. His first cover for Life appeared in 1908, the same year he debuted his signature design, which came to be known as “the fadeaway girl.” The fadeaway style refers to Phillips’s masterful use of shapes and edges to suggest a silhouette. In essence, a woman’s figure is rendered with a detailed face, arms, and legs, but the clothing is a solid, flat color that blends into the background. The defined elements are placed within the negative space in such a way as to suggest volume and form.
The style was not only innovative in design but also in practice, as it allowed publishers to reduce the number of colors to print. Today’s collector will be drawn not only to Phillips’s resourceful invention that marks a significant advancement in American illustration but also to the modern, independent, and seductive “It” girl, following in the footsteps of Charles Dana Gibson and Howard Chandler Christy.
Fade-away or not, Phillips’s illustrations have been known to go for 30–150% over the estimate at auction.