Tomas Harris created a lot of art, of many kinds, including ceramics, oil paintings, engravings, dry points, lithographs, watercolours, sketches and also tapestries (View my Tomas Harris ART Gallery, showing almost 200 pieces <—click here ).

Tomas wanted to try his hand at making tapestries just like Goya Francisco did, using the same weavers that Goya had used. Goyas’ exclusive tapestries were all made at the Royal Factory in Madrid, so that was why Tomas had his three made there too.

So in the early 1950’s Tomas created three cartoons (the weavers use these as blueprints) and had a tapestry woven for each one.  It was a very lengthy and expensive process.

Tapestry Loom at the Royal Factory in MadridTapestry Loom

Bristol Museum with signature of weaver (bottom right margin)<— This is one of the woven tapestries which is now (in all its glory, and in colour) at the Bristol Museum at the time of writing, but is not currently on public display. Notice the weavers personal signature woven into the fabric (bottom right).

This image is shown in the 1975 Courtauld Exhibition Catalogue - Cacti - Cartoon for a tapestry,  dated January, 1955The Factory had some kind of official state support under Franco, but in recent years the owners have been trying to sell it without much success.

 

In 1955, Tomas organised and held an exhibition for his tapestries, in Madrid, with a  famous speaker friend of his,  Valentine de Sambricio, who was an Art Historian.. The exhibition provided information about the process of creating the tapestries, and how the weavers signature came to be in the border of the final pieces.  The photos of the looms above are rare and the looms were part of the exhibits in the exhibition.

Today the thee tapestries are in museums around the world, one in Spain, one in England, and one in Australia.

Bristol Museum with sig

 

This Tapestry is held at the Bristol Museum in England, but is not on public display.

Tapestry woven at the Royal Factory Spain (2)

 

This tapestry is at the museum in Seville, Museo de Sevilla.

 

 

 

 

Tapestry woven at the Royal Factory Spain (3)

The third tapestry is at a museum in Melbourne, at the National Gallery of Victoria (Victoria State Gallery). It was gifted to the museum by Tomas’s three sisters (Enriqueta, Conchita and Violeta Harris) after the 1975 Tomas Harris Courtauld Exhibition. (The introduction in the catalogue for the 1975 exhibition was written by the well known Anthony Blunt <— read the introduction

 

Tomas was well known and respected in the Art World – worldwide.

 

DSCN3536

Apparently, last year, 2009, an exhibition of modern tapestries made by the Royal Factory in Madrid, was held, and a catalogue was produced.  Unfortunately, there was no mention of Tomas Harris in it, and so it has been assumed that it is very likely that Tomas had actually commissioned the tapestries to be made at the factory.

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I am currently hoping to receive new information about these tapestries from a major expert on tapestries in Spain, who will be visiting the museum in Seville in the near future, and who has very  detailed knowledge of the history of the Madrid factory and currently works as curator of the Royal Tapestry collection at the Palace in Madrid.   I will update this post if/when I receive further information.

Bristol Museum, in England National Gallery of  Victoria in MelbourneSeville Museum, in Spain

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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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