Tom Phillips

James Mackay, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, b. 1927. Judge and Lord Chancellor (1998)

About this artwork

The son of a railway signalman from Sutherland, James Mackay won a scholarship to George Heriot’s School and was awarded first class degrees in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Edinburgh. After a brief academic career, Mackay switched to Law. He rose rapidly to become Lord Advocate and in 1987 he was appointed Lord Chancellor by Margaret Thatcher, a post he retained in John Major’s governments. In the latter office Lord Mackay saw through many radical reforms of the legal profession. It was his decision to remove divorce cases from the High Court to the local Sheriff Courts, thereby reducing their cost and inconvenience. Tom Phillips’ sympathetic, almost pointillist portrait shows James Mackay at home on the Black Isle with a view north over the Cromarty Firth.

  • title: James Mackay, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, b. 1927. Judge and Lord Chancellor
  • accession number: PG 3141
  • artist: Tom PhillipsEnglish (born 1937)
  • depicted: James Mackay
  • gallery: Scottish National Portrait Gallery(On Display)
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: The law
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1998
  • measurements: 91.40 x 121.80 cm (framed: 108.80 x 139.20 x 5.50 cm)
  • credit line: Commissioned and presented by the Patrons of the National Gallery of Scotland 1998
  • copyright: © Tom Phillips RA
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

Born in London in 1937, Tom Phillips studied at St Catherine’s College in Oxford and at Camberwell School of Art. Since 1975 he has had a number of one-man exhibitions in Britain and abroad. One of the most prominent contemporary British portrait painters, Phillips also writes and composes. In 1982, he published a translated and illustrated version of Dante’s ‘Inferno’, and his opera ‘Irma’ was first performed in 1973. One of his best-known publications is ‘A Humument’; a Victorian novel of which each page has been turned into an artwork. It is not just the finished work of art, but also the creative process itself that interests Phillips. This is reflected not only in his individual paintings, but even more so in his detailed documentation of each work’s development.