Jeffrey Harris

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1949

N.Z. Family

  • Purchased 1974
  • Etching
  • 356 x 193mm
  • 74/165
  • 1973

Is this the ideal New Zealand family? Mother lovingly holding a newborn baby, father resplendent in one of those checkered cotton shirts that signify masculine outdoor work, with the family dog obediently at his side. But there is an unusual psychological intensity in Jeffrey Harris’s version of the New Zealand family. The family home is often the grounding influence on relationships, but in this etching it floats disconcertingly in the air beyond the couple, who are also represented hovering above it. Perhaps the solidity and dependability of the New Zealand family unit is not quite as it seems.

(1969 Comeback Special 27 August – 6 November 2016)

earlier labels about this work
  • This etching is a good example of Jeffrey Harris’ fascination with human faces and figures. It is part of a personal, almost autobiographical, narrative that includes family, friends and relationships. Harris’ interest at this time was in finding a way to express his own preoccupation with physical and psychological pain and emotional intensity. Harris is one of New Zealand’s leading expressionist artists. Largely self-taught, he acknowledges the profound influence of the highly symbolic work of the German Expressionists, Edvard Munch (1863 -1944) and Emil Nolde (1867 -1956), but has also created a personal vocabulary of symbols to express his emotional, spiritual and physical responses to the world. Harris was born in Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. He began exhibiting in 1969 with a one-man show in the Otago Museum and has exhibited widely since. In 1977 Harris was the first Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago and he was artist in residence at Victoria College, Melbourne, in 1986. He is represented in all major public collections in New Zealand.