Charlotte Harris: English Portrait Artist

Charlotte-Harris Eveining Standard 2005

Charlotte Harris in her Folkestone studio

Charlotte Harris is a portrait artist who was born in Ashford, Kent in 1981 and currently works from her studio in Folkestone.

Harris studied at Leeds Metropolitan University, during which time she worked as a studio assistant for the artist Tom Wood, whose work is featured in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. At the age of 21, she won the BP Portrait Award in 2003 with a painting of her grandmother, described by Director, Sandy Nairne as “extraordinary and telling”.

BP award winner: the artist's grandmother

BP award winner

She turned professional later that year after graduating with a 1st class Honours degree in Fine Art. The following year she exhibited in the Hunting Art Prize and at the Hart Gallery in Islington, London. The award winning painting was purchased by Leeds Metropolitan University and is on display in the university buildings.

Harris’s first commission was that of Vernon Scannell, writer and poet, who died in November 2007. Recent commissions have included a portrait of Dr Sigrid Rausing, publisher, anthropologist and philanthropist and founder of the Sigrid Rausing Trust. Harris’s portrait of the Rt. Rev. Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, was unveiled in April 2006 following a special service to mark the Bishop’s retirement. Commissioned to portray the Artistic Director of the Bavarian State Theatre, Harris’s painting of Sir Peter Jonas was unveiled in July 2006 at a ceremony in Munich.

Dame Vivien Duffield

Dame Vivien Duffield

As part of the BP Prize, Harris was commissioned to portray Dame Vivien Duffield and this piece is now part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. In 2007 Harris completed two further commissions for the Leeds Metropolitan University – Portrait of Emma Beith outside Carnegie Hall and Portrait of Leanne Creighton, Louise Sweeney and Anne-Marie Watkinson. Both portraits feature outgoing sabbatical officers from the Student Union at the university and were commissioned as part of the celebrations marking the University’s centenary year. Harris’s most recent commission features Frank Brake, joint-founder of the wholesale food company Brake Bros Ltd.

The artist’s statement from her website:

Dice Jar by Charlotte Harris

“I take pleasure in painting the ordinary things often taken for granted and allowing the viewer to see them in a new way or notice things that might usually pass them by. ” Charlotte Harris

My paintings explore a variety of subjects from everyday objects and childhood toys to food and glassware as well as portraits. In each case I aim to fully explore the nature of the object, drawing attention to its qualities, textures and surfaces by means of a carefully constructed composition and close attention to detail. I take pleasure in painting the ordinary things often taken for granted and allowing the viewer to see them in a new way or notice things that might usually pass them by. I have a strong interest in the traditions of portraiture and still life and like to use lighting to show a subject to its full potential enjoying its ability to bring out form and give weight to an object. Light’s mysterious refractive effect as it passes through glass is a subject which continues to fascinate me and recurs in my pieces.

As well as enjoying the more serious traditions of painting I like to bring a sense of playfulness to many of my pieces and often find humour or even a sense of the ridiculous in the objects I am depicting.

Whatever response my paintings evoke in the viewer, my aim is always to bring the person or object alive to them and for them to enjoy the experience of looking.

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