Pioneering colour theorist and artist, Sydney Harry who lectured at Bradford College of Art between 1937 and 1975, was also obsessed with the theory and principles of colour. Teaching Woven Textiles and Photography but most importantly the Science and Theory of Colour and Perception, Sydney’s research proved to be of immense value to colour theorists and textile designers.
Sydney Harry was born in Leeds in 1912 and at age twelve was accepted to study fine art, photography and woven textile design at Leeds College of Art. Leaving college aged 14; Sydney Harry opened a design and colour services studio.He came to Bradford College of Art in 1937 as a Senior Lecturer teaching Woven Textile Design, Colour and Photography.
Today colour is everywhere in our lives, influencing our choices of what to wear, what car to buy and what colour to paint our walls! The theory and principles of mixing colour both additive ( mixing light) and subtractive ( mixing pigment) and the visual and psychological impact of colour combinations has always fascinated artists, academics and industrialists . The note books of Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton demonstrate their obsession with colour!
In the early 1960s as his professional practice in art and textiles progressed he developed theories about colour by experimenting with colour combinations using weaving and gouache paint. His ideas and reputation spread quickly and he was invited by WD Wright, Professor of Applied Optics at Imperial College, London to join The Colour Group of Great Britain in 1968. Sydney Harry’s theories and experiments with colour were highly thought of among academic circles and before long he regularly lectured at academic institutions including Goldsmiths College, London and The Royal College of Art, and the University of Stockholm, and at for many industrial associations including the ICI Paints Division, the Design Council, International Wallpaper Manufacturers’ Association, British Colour Education Institute, and London British Colour Council.
His earliest existing colour theory paintings date from 1965, in which gradations of tone and hue were a major theme. By varying the scale and colour combinations many of his paintings resemble the dramatic Pop Art canvases of the 1960’s whilst others play strange tricks on your eyes. Sydney Harry’s work is a demonstration of the creative and calculated use of colour, an unusual academic and practical blend of science and art.
In 1978 Sydney Harry was instrumental in the setting up of The Colour Museum in Bradford, now home to the Society of Dyers and Colourists. The Society of Dyers and Colourists gave the first major exhibition of Sydney’s paintings from 1920s to the 1980s at their Bradford Colour Experience in October 2006. Harry continued to lecture up until 1984 until ill health severely limited his lecturing programme but he continued to paint and experiment with his theories right up until his death in 1991.
Sincere thanks to the family of Sydney Harry, particularly his grand daughter Lettie Tanner.