Friday, 21 July 2017

Art on Friday; Florence Harrison

'Emma' Florence Harrison or Florence Susan Harrison, even searching on Google you have to look hard to find an answer who her real name was.

Until a few years ago book illustrator Florence Harrison was listed by book and art dealers under the name of Emma Florence Harrison and biographical detail was limited to phrases such as, "little is known about this artist’s life". Then inspired by a chance find at an antiques fair book collector Mary Jacobs took up the gauntlet and set about researching the life and work of her favourite illustrator.

“I chanced upon a fine copy of “Christina Rossetti poems… The jewel-like palette of colours and the contrasting vibrancy of the illustrations which characterized her early works so entranced me that I immediately set about trying to discover more about her life.”

Mary’s research began by tracing the history of Emma Florence Harrison, who was known to have exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887, she successfully traced Emma Florence Harrison’s history and launched a website telling the story of the artist’s life. Coincidentally a short time later a retired lady in Sydney, Australia had purchased her first computer and “googled” her Great Aunt Florrie. She came across Mary’s website describing the life of Florence Harrison and realised there was a case of mistaken identity. Her Great Aunt Florrie was not Emma Florence, but Florence Susan Harrison. Florence’s great niece and Mary Jacobs pooled their information and were able to piece together much about an artist whose background had been a mystery for so long.Florence Susan Harrison (known to surviving family as Aunt Florrie) was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1877. Her father was a sailor and Florence spent much of her early childhood on board ships. In between voyages she attended a school in Folkestone, England which was run by a family member.

Most of Florence Harrison's book illustrations were published by Blackie and son. She wrote and illustrated a number of books of verse, on a fairy theme, Rhymes and Reasons (1905), Rhyme of a Run (1907), In the Fairy Ring (1908) and Elfin Song (1912). Her drawings are vibrant, richly coloured and characterized by a strong black outline around the figures.

Among Florence Harrison's most sumptuous books are three volumes of poetry commissioned by Blackie as Christmas Gift Books. Christina Rossetti's Poems (1910), Tennyson's Guinevere (1912) and The Early Poems of William Morris (1913). In these volumes Harrison's use of deep colours and Art Nouveau style drawings are shown to their best advantage.

maiden song illustration for poems by Christina Rossetti

’She Stood on Inner Ground that Budded Flowers.’ Illustration by Florence Harrison (1877–1955) for ‘Poems by Christina Rossetti

Three Maidens, illustration for Early Poems by William Morris


For Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems,

For A Royal Princess, by Christina Rossetti

A Birthday (ca. 1910) an illustration to Christina Rossetti's poems

Dreamland for Christina Rossetti

© KH

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