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Michael Harrison RBA

We are pleased to present selected works by Michael Harrison, who has recently been elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. It is thought to be over 100 years since an artist born in Northamptonshire received the coveted accolade of membership of the RBA. The Society was founded in 1846 and past members include Walter Sickert, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Frank Brangwyn and L.S. Lowry. Sir Alfred East was President in 1915.

Michael Harrison is descended from generations of Northamptonshire shoemakers and lawyers and has resided in the county for most of his life. He has been passionate about painting from an early age. In the 1960s he was befriended by George Holland who encouraged him to attend art school. Michael subsequently studied at Académie Julian, the Post-Impressionist studio in Paris. However, pursuing a career as an artist in those days was not considered a viable option. Michael continued to paint on family holidays at home and abroad, particularly in Greece and France, but it was not until recent years that he returned to painting with the single-mindedness required to progress.

An individual style slowly evolved. Consequently his paintings became noticed, galleries began to accept his work and solo exhibitions across the country followed. Since 2011, his work has been submitted and accepted for national open exhibitions, notably Royal Society of British Artists and New English Art Club at Mall Galleries in London. He was subsequently elected a member of RBA earlier this year.

His works are wide ranging and diverse, in both choice of subject and location; the intimate small landscape studies are completed en plein air. He is increasingly drawn to studies of cathedrals and church interiors entitled Sanctuary, Shrine and Taizé.

Read more - Commissions

In March 2017, Michael Harrison was the Artist-in-Residence at Leicester Cathedral to record the events of the re-interment of King Richard III. His series of work produced under the title ‘Sanctuary for a King’ received much media acclaim.

In 2019, he was a guest artist to commemorate the Tricentennial of Freemasonry at the United Grand Lodge of England.

Read more - Works held in Public Collections

Alfred East Art Gallery, Kettering, Northamptonshire
Cynthia Spencer Hospice Chapel, Northampton
St Lawrence’s Church, Warkworth, Northumberland
Dean’s Collection, Leicester Cathedral
United Grand Lodge of England
The Yacht Club, Hydra, Greece

Read more - Publications & Media Comment

The Artist Magazine, Editor’s Choice Painting of the Month, October 2010
Church Times, March 2015
Leicester Mercury, March/April 2015
BBC East Midlands Feature, May 2015

Read more - An Appreciation by the late Robin Capon (Art Journalist & Author)

‘Small paintings, particularly if they are made from direct observation and response to the subject, are often more telling and emotive in their impact than large studio works that are resolved in every detail. There is a deftness and energy in his brushwork: it is expressive and confidently stated, with always something left to the viewer’s imagination. Although small-scale, his paintings capture and convey a great deal.

Michael’s strength lies in the way he is able to evaluate and handle the tonal qualities of a subject. He works from a limited colour palette, perhaps with only four or five colours. Adept at mixing colours, he aims for results that are well-keyed and exploit a good tonal range. In turn, whatever the subject, this enhances the sense of mood in his paintings.

In Michael’s work, that relationship between artist and medium is clearly evident, and it results in paintings that have a wonderfully loose and direct quality.’

Please select an image to see a larger version

King Richard III Re-interment Ceremony
An oil on panel measuring 11½” x 12¾”.

The Subject
This painting is one of a series of eighteen commissioned from Michael Harrison as artist-in-residence at Leicester Cathedral in 2017, to record the events of the re-interment of King Richard III.

The Wildflower Garden
An oil on panel measuring 7½” x 11½”. Signed MH.

The Subject
Painted on the Royal Estate near Llandovery in early summer, the picture depicts part of the extensive wildflower meadow which is a spectacular feature of this beautiful landscape bordering on Brecon Beacon National Park.

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland at Dusk
An oil on panel measuring 4½” x 11½”.

The Subject
A view of Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, the stronghold of the Percy family, featured in Shakespeare’s Henry IV. The painting was completed en plein air and shows the castle on the skyline, with the coastline on the distant horizon. Working with a very limited colour palette, the painting is muted to communicate a sense of calm and stillness.

Water Meadow
An oil on panel measuring 9¼” x 12½”. Signed MH.

The Subject
The Church of St Mary and St Giles, Stony Stratford, with the River Ouse, viewed from a standpoint above a water-meadow flood plain. The painting was done in one sitting en plein air in challenging conditions in early spring, when fluctuating light conditions constantly changed the reflections on the water, on the tower of the church and on the distant bend in the river.

First Snow
An oil on panel measuring 10½” x 13”.

The Subject
Through the years snow scenes have been a particular favourite subject of Michael’s. The painting was completed in one session en plein air and seeks to capture the brittle ambience of extreme cold. The location is a farm track close to the artist’s home outside Kettering.

The Orchard Garden
An oil on panel measuring 9” x 21”. Signed MH.

The Subject
The painting shows what remains of the original orchard within the artist’s garden. The painting was completed in spring, the dominant feature being the cherry blossom, captured at its timely best and almost iridescent in its transparency.

The Quarterly Communication
An oil on panel measuring 14” x 18”. Signed Michael Harrison.

The Subject
One of a series of six paintings produced when Michael Harrison was invited by the Freemasons to join five other artists to commemorate the Tricentennial Celebrations of the United Grand Lodge of England. The painting portrays the Pro Grand Master giving his Quarterly Address, accompanied by his Deputies, assembled within the ornate splendour of the Grand Temple in London.