George Harris

Theme/Style – California Modernism, Abstraction, still lifes, portraits

Media – Oils, murals, lithography, tapestry

Artistic Focus – A versatile and dynamic California Modernist, George Harris's bold and independent style was evident in his murals and still life paintings. He also created hard-edged abstractions with geometric forms, some with vibrant colors and others that were monochromatic but nonetheless striking.

Career Highlights –

• George Albert Harris was born in San Francisco in 1913 and pursued a career in music before beginning his art studies at the California School of Fine Arts in 1929, after which he traveled and studied in Mexico and Europe.
• Harris’s 1934 Coit Tower mural, depicting the professions of banking and law, is memorable for its not-so-subtle commentary on the economic conditions that necessitated the Public Works of Art Project (which hired and paid the Coit Tower muralists) and other New Deal programs, with stock market clerks tracking plummeting prices on the exchange, and bank guards with guns fiercely protecting bags of money.
• In 1935, Harris was included in the seminal Opening Exhibition of the San Francisco Museum of Art, where he was represented with two artworks and where his art was included in the company of many of the greatest California Modernists of the day.
• Harris had a one-man show at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1946, which displayed work he had done over a ten-year period, and also tapestries he designed. In that same year Harris was included in a group show at the City’s Lucien Labaudt Gallery called Important Bay Region Artists, along with John Langley Howard, Ralph Chessé, Edward Hagedorn, and others; and in 1947 his paintings were included with David Park’s and others in a show at the City of Paris Gallery in San Francisco.
• After his earlier studies, Harris later earned an undergraduate degree at the College of Marin and a Ph.D. from Stanford University, where he became a professor of art. Throughout his career Harris also taught at other institutions, including San Francisco State College, California College of Arts & Crafts and Alcatraz Penitentiary.
• In 1950 Harris was chosen to paint a 27-foot mural for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce building. As described at the time by a local newspaper, Harris’s mural told of “the progressive development of San Francisco in a series of geometric designs, including flowing lines, angles, and well dispersed circular forms.”
• His works are in many public collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and Carnegie Institute.
• Harris left America for England in 1970, and moved to France in 1980 where he painted until he passed away in 1991.