Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

The Lesson, 1889

Oil on canvas. On loan from private collection.

Edwin Harris

1856 - 1906

Perhaps because his marriage to the niece of an art dealer brought him an easy market for his work, Harris specialised in relatively small-scale paintings, mostly of charming domestic subjects, as he did not need to produce Royal Academy show-stoppers in order to make his reputation.



Edwin Harris - 1856 - 1906

Although he met with occasional commercial and critical success, Edwin Harris did not achieve much fame or recognition during his lifetime and there is little biographical information about him.

Born in Birmingham, he entered the School of Art there at the age of fourteen, where he studied with Walter Langley and William.Breakespeare. He went on to teach at the School for two years after completing his studies. In 1880 he joined Verlat's Academy in Antwerp, where he met Frank Bramley and William Wainwright, and, like many artists of his circle, went on to spend time in Brittany.

Harris first visited Newlyn in 1881 and returned in 1882, but it was not until 1883 that he settled in the village, remaining here for twelve years. He and his wife (the niece of an influential art dealer) were soon key figures in the colony.

In 1887, his wife died of tuberculosis, after a gruelling period of illness which upset all who knew her. Harris began to spend time away from Newlyn and eventually left for good in 1895. Having remarried, he spent some years in South Wales before returning to settle in Birmingham, where he died in 1906.

Most of Harris’s Newlyn paintings depict cottage interiors with a single light source (usually a window). His figures are acutely observed, but imbued with charm rather than ‘rural realist’ angst.

For further information, see 'Edwin Harris: An Introduction to his Life and Art', Roger Langley, published by Truran.