Olaf Harris was a younger brother of the well-known children’s illustrator and author, Pixie O’Harris. He executed seven of the twenty-five paintings commissioned from Pixie for the Manning River District Hospital in 1957.1
Born in Wales in 1909, a son of British born artist, George Frederick Harris,2 Olaf migrated to Australia with his parents and several siblings in 1920, settling for a short period in WA before relocating to Sydney (Maroubra).
In 1924 he joined the commercial art establishment of Crisp Brothers. He was employed here for some sixteen years and excelled both as an artist and designer.3 During this early period, he also attended Julian Ashton’s art school where he would have become acquainted with many budding artists.
He enjoyed painting for pleasure and in 1943 he entered a portrait of Pixie O’Harris in the Archibald Prize.4
In 1946, in partnership with Robert Coates, he formed the successful company O’Harris Advertising. One interesting aspect of this business was the work undertaken for the exhibitors at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, with Olaf involved in decorating many of the showmen’s booths and exhibits. This led to enduring friendships with show families.
Olaf had a close relationship with Pixie and assisted her with several commissions undertaken for hospitals and the like.5 In later life he spent many hours painting in his home studio. He died in 1996 aged 87.
Author: Penny Teerman (based on information kindly provided by family members in 2020).
1 Midcoast Stories – Artefacts – Pixie O’Harris Paintings
2 Wikipedia: George Frederick Harris (painter)
3 Reference provided by Crisp Brothers dated 16 March 1942 (in possession of family members)
5 Was it Yesterday? the Autobiography of Pixie O’Harris (Rigby Publishers 1983)