Harold Speed

British, b.1872, d.1957

First Design for Fresco “Autumn” Painted On The Wall of the Refreshment Room, Royal Academy

  • 1895
  • Tempera on paper
  • Purchased by the Canterbury Society of Arts 1906, given to the Gallery, 1932
  • 523 x 880mm
  • 69/553

Harold Speed was studying at the Royal Academy Schools in London in 1895 when he made this work, an entry in a competition for a design suitable to decorate a public building. Speed was awarded his £40 first prize by Sir Frederic Leighton and after graduating in 1896 was contracted to install his design in an arched recess of the Royal Academy’s refreshment room, where it remains.

Speed became an eminent portrait painter, with commissions including a portrait of King Edward VII in 1905. His Royal Academy fresco design was brought to Christchurch for inclusion in the British Art Section of the New Zealand International Exhibition and then purchased by the Canterbury Society of Arts.

(The Moon and the Manor House, 12 November 2021 – 1 May 2022)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Harold Speed was commissioned by the Royal Academy, London, to paint a fresco on the walls of its Refreshment room. Autumn is the preparatory sketch for that fresco. A symbolic, sumptuous interpretation of the season, it won an award of £40.00 from the Royal Academy Schools for the decoration of a public building. The glowing colours show the effect of Speed's recent visit to Italy where he was impressed by the natural soft hues of the country's light. Autumn was shown at the ‘New Zealand International Exhibition’, Christchurch, in 1906 and 1907.

    Born in London, the son of an architect, Speed abandoned his own studies in architecture for painting. In 1890 he was awarded a gold medal at the South Kensington School and in 1893 he won a gold medal at the Royal Academy Schools, as well as a travelling scholarship, which allowed him to travel to Paris, Rome, Vienna, Spain and Belgium. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and was a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. (Label date unknown)