Philpot made his name, and income, as a society portrait painter, but his personal commitment as an artist was always outlandish, private and unfashionable, favouring allegorical scenes, celebrations of his Catholic faith, and human subject paintings that worked gradually towards his self-expression as a homosexual.
This study for Himalayas, for example, symbolises the thrill and challenge of scaling a mountain. Avoiding a panoramic sweep from below, Philpot evokes the enormity of the range by placing the viewer among its very peaks. Sprawled between bare crags and boulders, monumental nudes personify the mountain’s untamed grandeur. Their uninhibited nakedness conveys a sexual charge made daunting by their unperturbable massiveness. We stand as though touching the sky, too high even to see the green valleys below, confronting the summit’s living spirit.