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Phil May RI RP NEAC (1864-1903)

Philip William May, RI RP NEAC (1864-1903)

Sometimes referred to as the ‘grandfather of British illustration’, Phil May was one of the most influential black-and-white artists of his generation. Earthy, street-wise, and redolent of the music hall, his work is the antithesis of that of Aubrey Beardsley.

Phil May was born in New Wortley, Leeds on 22 April 1864. His father, an unsuccessful brass founder from landowning stock, died when May was only nine years old, leaving him to struggle for survival. His schooling was terminated four years later and he had to take various jobs in offices and warehouses. His mother had strong theatrical contacts, and he eventually found work as an assistant scene painter at the Grand Theatre.

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