Although he painted landscapes and portraits he is most noted for his elegant and idealised portrayal of women. Emphasising the passive role accorded to women in the early nineteen hundreds, his work depicts the refined lifestyle of the upper class woman.
'Lamplight' portrays one of Fox's most prevalent themes of women relaxing in the company of one another. The use of soft pastel colours and the play of light and shadow on the figures enhances the serenity of the scene and provides the viewer with a glimpse into this intimate gathering of women.
The son of a photographer, E. Phillips Fox was born at Fitzroy, Victoria on 12th March 1865. He studied at the National Gallery School of Victoria in 1878 and taught drawing whilst pursuing his own studies as a painter. In 1887 he won a landscape prize and left for Paris to study at the Academie Julian and later at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. Fox joined excursions to Brittany, St Ives and other 'plein-air' painting centres.
He returned to Melbourne in 1891 and a year later, he and Tucker established 'Charterisville', an art school that encouraged plein-air and impressionist principles. In 1904 Fox was back in Paris and the following year he married an English artist, Ethel Carrick. They toured Italy, Spain and Algeria, and in 1913 returned to Australia where they enjoyed a very happy domestic and artistic collaboration.
Fox was particularly impressed by the work of the French impressionist Paul Gauguin who he visited in Tahiti. When the First World War began he returned to Melbourne, but died of a sudden illness on 8th October 1915. Emanuel Phillips Fox was much admired by a younger generation of Australian artists for the bright colours of his French influenced impressionist paintings and generally for his remarkable range and ability.