Distinguished Artist Series


Sam Hyde Harris



Harris' early paintings date from about 1920 until the early 1940's. The primary influence on Harris at this time was his long standing friendship with Hanson D. Puthuff (1875-1972), a noted California painter whose works often show a deep interest in light and atmospheric effects. During the early 1920's, Harris studied under Puthuff and the similarity of styles between the two men are obvious. Puthuff's influence and guidance at the beginning of Harris' career afforded Harris the technique and style to produce his best work.

Paintings from Harris' early period are relatively rare. He had always been a commercial artist and was continually employed by various clients. His spare time was limited, and thus his paintings were produced during short periods: weekends, holidays and vacations. The Newport area paintings were painted on vacations and while he lived there from 1931-37. His outside exhibitions were few. To fa cilitate handling and storage, most of Harris' paintings are on canvas mounted on thick board. A few of his special works that he sent to exhibitions are on stretched canvas. In general, one might characterize the early period as that of an extremely good "Sunday Painter", although the implied limits of this characterization are grossly unfair to Harris.

During World War II, Harris enters a period of transition, in both his life and his art. He continues to work as a commercial artist, but he begins to take frequent trips to the desert. He no longer summers near Newport Beach, instead he goes to Svenska and Cathedral City, near Palm Springs. He still paints with Puthuff, but he makes friends with several desert painters and in 1943, he meets the painter who will be the greatest influence in his late period, James Swinnerton (1875-1974). Harris' personal life changed in 1945, when he divorced his first wife and married Marion Dodge.

Harris' late paintings exhibit a marked difference from his early paintings. The late ones are almost exclusively desert scenes. The influence of James Swinnerton is clear: the paintings are of bright stretches of sand with occassional smoke trees; the colors are simple and bold, reds, yellows and greens; the compositions are simplified and direct; the paint is applied thinly and broadly. There is no trace of the earlier preoccupations with Constable and Turner.

From top to bottom: Backwash, oil on canvas on board, 16 x 20 inches; Sunday Sky, oil on masonite, 16 x 20 inches; At Rest, oil on canvas on board, 16 x 20 inches; Beach Flora, oil on board, 12 x 16 inches; Docked, oil on board,12 x 16 inches.


Text and images courtesy of De Rus Fine Arts and Fine Arts Books, 9100 Artesia Boulevard, Bellflower, CA 90706, (562) 920-1312, and in Laguna Beach, CA (949) 376-3785

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Editor's note: As of 2007 The estate of Sam Hyde Harris is being marketed by Maurine St. Gaudens, administrator of the estate. For images, see www.samhydeharrisestatepaintings.com. Tel is 626-792-0865 and email is harrispaintings@samhydeharrisestatepaintings.com.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 10/28/11

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