MR TOMAS HARRIS – SPANISH ART

In 1964, Sir Anthony Blunt wrote :-

Mr. Tomas Harris, who was killed in a road accident in Majorca on Monday(27th January 1964), was well known to evryone in the art world in London and Madrid. His father Lionel Harris, founded the Spanish Art Galleries more than half a century ago and although Tomas himself wanted to become a painter,  and won a scholarship to the Slade at the age of 16, he abandoned this career in order to join the firm and help his father.

Almost every important work of art to come from Spain to England during the half-century went through the hands of either the father or the son and one could be certain at any time of seeing in the galleries, masterpieces by El Greco or the other great Spanish painters, as well as carpets and other objects of art of the particlualr kinds in which Spain was so rich. Tomas had an uncanny instinct for discovering works of art in unexpected places, and one of his most important acquisitions a series of fifteenth-century  German panels which had once been in the National Gallery – were bought among the contents of an outhouse at a country sale. To his energy and acumen were added the most rigid integrity in all matters of business and the greatest generosity in questions of scholarship: his pictures and his great knowledge were available to the humblest student as well as to the expert or potential buyer.

During the war he ws attached to the War office (in MI5) where his special qualifications and his astonishing imagination enabled him to do work of the highest value to the Allied cause, which won him great commendation from those in high places who were in a position to judge it.

After the war instead of returning to the art trade he devoted himself to painting and held successful exhibitions in London, New York, Madrid and Barcelona. For his last 10 years he lived mainly in Majorca and devoted much time to the scholarship of art history. He lived long enough to witness the triumpant success of the exhibition of etchings by Goya which he organized at the British Museum, almost entirely from the resources of his own collection and to see the first rough copy of his complete catalogue of these etchings which is due to be published in the near future and which will revolutionize our idea of Goya’s acheivment as an engraver.

 

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