Dunedin artist Jeffrey Harris with his work Family Group, which took 37 years to complete. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
A painting nearly 40 years in the making has been revealed in
Dunedin artist Jeffrey Harris recently completed a family
portrait he started in 1975.
''I'm getting older now and if I didn't finish it now, I knew
I never would,'' the 63-year-old joked this week.
''I've still got 20 or so unfinished works from the '70s and,
if I don't finish them, nobody else is going to.''
The painting, which was finally shown this week, includes a
16-year-old Harris and his siblings, Jillian Byloo and Guy
and Euan Harris.
''It's my immediate family and cousins. It was Christmas Day
at my grandparents' house at Okains Bay, on Banks Peninsula,
in the '60s. We always took a family photo on Christmas Day.
''I did the background and a couple of the figures in 1975.
But I didn't finish the others and the faces until last year,
so I had to re-do the original figures. Luckily, I've still
got a few old tubes of paint from back then. I spent from
June to December last year working on it just about every
Other works in the four-piece exhibition include paintings of
Harris' daughter, Magdalena. Harris is considered one of New
Zealand's most important expressionist painters and his work
often references a personal narrative, reflecting on family,
friends and relationships.
He has painted full-time since 1970 and was the 1977
University of Otago Frances Hodgkins Fellow, before moving to
Melbourne in the 1980s. He returned to Dunedin in 2000 and,
within three years, had won New Zealand's top art prize, the
James Wallace Art Award, for his work From Dream 2838.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery published an anthology of his
art, Jeffrey Harris, which was a finalist in the 2006
Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and accompanied by a major
retrospective exhibition, which toured New Zealand public
galleries from 2004-06.
In November 2008, Te Papa paid a record $150,000 for a 1970
Harris work, Self-portrait, which he painted when he
''Family'' is on at the Brett McDowell Gallery until April 4.