Philip Clairmont attended the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, Christrchurch, New Zealand (1967-1970) and was tutored by Lithuanian expressionist painter Rudolph Gopas.
Clairmont died at the age of 34 and his art and life are often perceived to be a text book example of the artist as tortured genius or visionary. Clairmont once commented that his paintings of domestic interiors were ‘a self-portrait.’ However, his work also reflects the zeitgeist of 1960s counterculture and the colourful domestic objects he painted reveal the influence of rock music posters and underground comics.
An important figure in New Zealand painting, by the late 1970s, feminism and post-modern ideologies had partially marginalised Clairmont’s reputation. However, his art retains its authority as amongst the best expressionist painting in New Zealand.
Clairmont’s work is represented in the collections of the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa, in Wellington, Christchurch Art Gallery and Auckland Art Gallery.