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Ted Harrison is one of Canada’s most popular artists. His love of the land and people of the Yukon has brought him national acclaim. His distinctive style of painting is both colourful and sophisticated yet retains an innocent charm, and appeals to young and old alike.
Edward Hardy Harrison was born August 28th, 1926 in the village of Wingate In County Durham, England. Ted attributes his early interest in art to the encouragement and support from his parents, particularly his mother who had an interest in fashion design and photography. Grammar school teachers recognized his talent and urged him to further pursue his artistic dreams by going to Art College. In 1943, he enrolled in Hartlepole College of Art and began to study art and design in earnest, but the Second World War interrupted his education.
Following military service, he returned to art school and in 1950 received a Diploma in Design. The following year he received a teaching certificate from the University of Durham and began a twenty-eight year career in education. Ted, who had a great interest in travel, then taught in many different parts of the world, including Malaysia, and New Zealand, before immigrating to Canada with his wife Nicky, and their son Charles. They settled in the small town of Carcross just outside Whitehorse, in the Yukon.
Ted credits the work of English painter, Norman Cornish for inspiring his life long quest to paint people and places. But the strongest influence in his life and art was living in the land of the Yukon, where he found his “Shangri-La”. In May in 1969, Ted had his first art showing at the Public Library in Whitehorse and so began his illustrative journey as a working artist in Canada.
In addition to his work as a painter, Ted has written several children’s books and illustrated both “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert Service. Other projects include his design of Yukon Pavilion for Vancouver Expo’ 86 and the design of a Canada Post Christmas Stamp in 1996.
His paintings can be found in private and public collections throughout Canada, and in New Zealand, Japan, Germany and the United States. In 1987 he received the Order of Canada for his contribution to Canadian culture. He was awarded a honourary doctorate from The University of Athabasca in 1991, a honourary doctorate in Fine Arts from The University of Victoria in 1998 and a distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta in 2002. He also holds an honorary doctorate of Law.
In 1993 he moved to Victoria, British Columbia to continue his painting and writing.
He was inducted into the Royal Conservatory of the Arts in 2005. In 2009, the first ever biography of the artist, “Ted Harrison: Painting Paradise”, was written by author, Katherine Gibson. And in the same year Ted donated a large mural entitled “Vast Yukon” measure 19.5 ft wide by 6 ft tall to the University of Victoria. The mural is currently on display in the Faculty of Social Science.