Thomas Phillips was born in Dudley, Warwickshire, on 18 October 1770, of well-to-do parents. After an apprenticeship with Francis Eginton, a Birmingham glass painter, he came to London in 1790 with an introduction to Benjamin West, who employed him on his painted-glass windows for Saint George's Chapel, Windsor. Phillips entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1791. His first exhibits at the Royal Academy, between 1792 and 1794, were a view of Windsor Castle and history, religious, and mythological pictures, but he subsequently specialized in portraiture.
After a period of comparative obscurity in an age dominated by Lawrence, Hoppner, and Beechey, Phillips was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1804 and a full Academician in 1808. From about 1804 until his death he lived on George Street, Hanover Square. He married Elizabeth Fraser of Fairfield, near Inverness.
In 1825 Phillips was elected professor of painting at the Royal Academy in succession to Henry Fuseli. He held this post until 1832, and, in order to qualify himself for his duties, visited Italy, where he traveled in the company of William Hilton and Sir David Wilkie. His Lectures on the History and Principles of Painting were published in 1833. A man of wide learning, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries. He is best known for his portraits of scientists and literary figures, many of the latter painted for John Murray, the publisher. He died in London on 20 April 1845.
[Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 184.]
Miller, Charlotte. Thomas Phillips, R.A., F.S.A., 1770-1845. Portrait Painter. M.A. report, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, London, 1977.
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 184.