Philip Holmes had a close association with the Borough Group, becoming particularly tight with David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. He is particularly recognised for his landscape painting, for which he travelled extensively, but he also focussed on British landscapes: from the mountainous landscapes of Wales and Scotland to the rugged coastlines and tin mines of Cornwall, and the fens and huge skies of Norfolk.
Born in London in 1924, Holmes joined the RAF cadets in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War and later became a radar navigator for B24 bombers in Egypt and then Italy. At the end of the war he aided the re-installation of the galleries in the Uffizzi in Florence. In 1948 he enrolled at the St Martin’s School of Art in London where he met Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. Soon afterwards, the three began attending David Bomberg’s classes at Borough Polytechnic where they were encouraged to draw and paint the city’s many new building sites. Of the three, it was Holmes who developed the closest links to Bomberg and his teaching, eventually becoming a member of the Borough Bottega after its formation in 1953.
Holmes moved to Spain in 1954 and lived for a short while with Bomberg and Lilian at Casa de la Virgen before moving to the Pensión Progresso in Ronda. On his return to London he set up a studio in Kensington, before relocating his family to a new studio and home in Islington in the mid 1960’s. He remained at this studio for the rest of his life. Solo exhibitions of his work in London during the 1950’s were held at the RBA Galleries, The ICA Gallery, the Studio Gallery and Beaux Arts Gallery.