Born in Cumbria, Philipson moved to Scotland with his family when he was fourteen. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art, where he joined the teaching staff in 1947 and taught until his retirement in 1982. His early work - mainly landscapes, still lifes and interiors - was strongly influenced by Kokoschka, whose painting ‘Zrání’ Philipson had studied at length. Later in the 1950s he became interested in the work of the American Abstract Expressionists. He became particularly well known for his paintings of cock fights, which helped to establish his reputation as a painter. Philipson’s paintings were notable for their energy and use of rich, jewel-like colour. His diverse subjects included catherdral interiors, soldiers, exotic wild animals and poppies.