To celebrate the acquisition of the archive of distinguished artist Tom Phillips, the Bodleian Library asked the artist to assemble and design a series of books drawing on his themed collection of over 50,000 photographic postcards. These encompass the first half of the twentieth century, a period in which, thanks to the ever cheaper medium of photography, ordinary people could afford to purchase their own portraits. These portraits allowed individuals to create and embellish their own self images, presenting themselves as they wished to be seen within the trends and social mores of their time. Each book in the series contains two hundred images chosen from a visually rich vein of social history. Their back covers also feature thematically linked paintings, specially created for each title, from Phillips’s signature work, A Humument.
Bicycles, as its title suggests, documents the great age of the safety bicycle, which was welcomed as a technology of emancipation for both women and men. Also included are portraits of competitive racers and newly pedaling toddlers.
These unique and visually stunning books offer a rich glimpse of forgotten times and will be greatly valued by art and history lovers alike.
“These images are captivating visual vignettes. We may not know who the subjects are, but the postcards offer us a glimpse of their interests, their time, and their world. Tom Phillips’s exceptional collection gives us a fascinating chance to retrieve something of these lives.”—Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London
“Picture postcards from a century ago capture unique moments in time and place and are a wonderful social history record. Tom Phillips is adept at seeking out and choosing amazingly evocative postcard images.”—Brian Lund, editor, Picture Postcard Monthly