Tag Archives: Robert Harris Canadian painter

Up Next: A Life’s Work

Coming Soon to the CCAG — A Life’s Work: Canadian Artist Robert Harris (1849-1919)

-New Gallery exhibition highlights Harris’ work as a portrait painter in Canada’s early years-

(Charlottetown, P.E.I.) – A highly-anticipated new Robert Harris exhibition is opening in two stages this month at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG). Beginning June 5, A Life’s Work surveys Harris’ impressive career as a portrait painter in a young country. 

The exhibition features commissioned portraits of local merchant William Weeks, 1880; Sir Hugh Allan, 1885, founder of the Allan Steamship Line; the artist’s niece, Ruth Harris, 1896; and Anna Leonowens, 1905, co-founder of what is now NSCAD University. Also included are portraits of Harris’ siblings and parents, self-portraits, scenes of everyday life—including The Local Stars, 1888 and A Studio Boy’s Private View, 1886—less known but remarkable landscape paintings from several countries, selected drawings, sketchbooks, and memorabilia such as family photographs and letters.

Ranging from youthful works made in Charlottetown, to those created during his international studies and travels, or in his Montreal studio, this selection of works is drawn primarily from the CCAG’s extensive Robert Harris Collection and Archive—the majority of which was transferred to the Centre in 1965 from the Robert Harris Trust.

Harris was a keen observer and he created a fascinating record of Charlottetown as he practiced drawing and painting. His detailed map of the city (based on a 1863 map by D.J. Lake) related to his early surveying work and his watercolour views of Charlottetown from 1869-1871 are a charming glimpse into this era. However Harris was intent on painting people and his early self-directed training was followed by periods of study in Boston, London, and Paris in the 1870s and early 1880s. His goal of being an artist was set by his later teens and by 1880 he was regarded as one of Canada’s leading painters. 

Harris had the distinction of being named among the 26 charter members of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA) when it was founded in 1880. His growing reputation for portraiture was undoubtedly a contributing factor in the Canadian Government awarding him the 1883 commission to depict the delegates to the Quebec Conference of 1864. Harris’ large, group painting is an iconic image in Canadian history and the commission propelled the artist’s career and solidified his reputation as Canada’s best portrait artist of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Harris’ success has often been attributed to his talent, business acumen, and his ability to connect with people—be it the well-to-do sitters commissioning portraits or the local farmers, fishers, women working in the lobster packing plant, or as a teacher in a one-room school. The range of subjects from everyday life that Harris explored in his works bear this out.

A Life’s Work: Canadian Artist Robert Harris (1849-1919) is planned in two parts. The first will feature many of the early watercolours, drawings of nude models, illustrations, and preliminary sketches for a wide range of portraits and will be presented in the Sobey Gallery and opens on June 5. The majority of the oil paintings in the exhibition—the portraits, genre, and landscapes—will be installed on the second-floor gallery and will be ready for viewing by June 26 and on display until January 2022.

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Linda Tweel Portrait Joins Harris Collection

The Collections Committee at Confederation Centre recently accepted a large 1887 portrait, painted by Robert Harris, for the Art Gallery’s extensive Harris Collection.

The oil on canvas painting was gifted to the Centre in memory of Linda Tweel, to recognize the many contributions she made throughout her lifetime in the fields of education, culture, and community affairs. Linda Tweel was an early member of the Woman’s Committee of Confederation Centre of the Arts, and served as Chair of the Friends of Confederation Centre for several years.

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Gallery Director, Kevin Rice welcomed the addition. “It is always exciting to have collectors offer interesting works for the Collection; the support of donors like Mr. Tweel is critical in building a Canadian art collection in Charlottetown,” said Rice. “With this gift we see a continuation of support for Confederation Centre from the Linda Tweel family.”

Since the Art Gallery began collecting in 1964, its holdings have grown to over 17,000 items including a comprehensive research collection and archive on the works of Charlottetown-raised Robert Harris (1849-1919),  a painter of the iconic group portrait, The Fathers of Confederation.

‘Holding the Pose’ Opens at Confederation Centre’s Art Gallery

Portraits are often thought of as a fairly straightforward kind of art work. The goal is to produce a likeness of the subject, whether physical or psychological, mediated by the interpretation of the artist. But those portrayed are rarely passive actors in the exchange that takes place when a portrait is made. Through pose, attitude, costume, and other means of self-presentation, sitters always influence the end result.

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The active involvement of subjects in the creation of any portrait is the focus of Holding the Pose: Portraits From the Collection, a new exhibition presented by the Confederation Centre Art Galleryopening on January 27th.

Featuring works from the gallery’s permanent collection by artists from across Canada, the show demonstrates the complexity of the interaction between artist and sitter through a wide variety of portraits in various mediums. From P.E.I. painter Brian Burke’s evocative portraits of local literary figures Milton Acorn and Libby Oughton to the work of David Blackwood, Marion Wagschal, Edward Poitras, and others, the exhibition reflects the richness of the art of portraiture in Canada.

The Gallery’s collection also includes a significant quantity of works by one of Canada’s definitive portrait painters, Robert Harris, and the work of Harris will feature prominently in the exhibition.

“In the work of Robert Harris, we encounter an incredible richness and subtlety brought to bear on the craft of portraiture,” says Gallery Director Kevin Rice. “In the context of this exhibition, we have a great opportunity to see how the artist approached the vibrant subjects of his paintings, and how they played a role in the final result.”

Curated by the Gallery’s Pan Wendt, Holding the Pose will be on display from January 27 to November 27, 2016. The Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

For more information visit http://www.confederationcentre.com.