Friswell, Harry Percy Hain (1857-1941)

Friswell, Harry Percy Hain (1857-1941)

Harry Percy Hain Friswell was an English painter of landscapes and portraits. He was a keen admirer of JMW Turner and John Constable and his work is reminiscent of Constable’s oil sketches. Through fluid brushwork, he captured a sense of nature’s irrepressible energy and its ever-shifting emphasis.

In 1908, at the Ipswich Fine Art Club, Friswell delivered a talk on “the development of colour in modern painting”. The Evening Star provided a summary.

“Mr Friswell referred in terms of warmest admiration to the Suffolk artist (Constable) with whose house he has become associated. Constable, he said saw the beauty of cultivated scenery; the earth was a man’s mother to him; he loved her as Francois Millet did. His intensely affectionate, observant nature caused him to appreciate the beauty of his immediate surrounding, without the stimulus of foreign travel - just as he loved and wooed a girl he had known from childhood. His virtue lies in bringing new thought to familiar scenes, not in regarding fresh countries with an old and worn view. The daylight in the pictures he exhibited in France, the entirely different texture and quality of surface, created a positive furore.

It was noticed that much of the brilliancy was due to the system of decomposing his tints, and placing detached spots and dots of pure colour side by side in such a way that they produced what is now known as ‘optical mixture’.

Summarising the purpose of his paper, Mr Friswell said: ‘We have listed the curtain of the past, and looked back upon a group of human actors in the first half of the last century. I have indicated how all through that time, men’s minds were bent upon the study of natural laws; how painting came to be in sympathy with our new knowledge; how knowledge of science was made use of by three masters in English painting - Turner, Constable and Holman Hunt - to leave behind the conventional darkness and black shadows of the past, and to bring the Art of Colour in from where they found it to its position today.”

It’s interesting to note his views on how the masters of English painting had a deep understanding of science as he seems to allude to their intellectual reasoning. Friswell’s father, James, was a well-educated essayist who published numerous papers throughout his career.

Friswell exhibited at the Royal Academy, Birmingham Royal Society of Artists, Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, and the Royal Institute of British Artists. Today, he’s represented in several public collections.


Born in Bloomsbury to James Friswell, an author, and Emma Hain nee Rumley.


Living in Bexleyheath, Kent.


Debuted at the Royal Academy. A Day in Early Summer.


Exhibited at the Royal Academy. The Winter Sunshine.


Exhibited at the Royal Academy. A Spring Evening.

Married Margaret Ann Petch.


Living in Conwy, Wales.


Exhibited at the Royal Academy. An Apple Orchard - Springtime.


Exhibited at the Royal Academy. Moonrise.


Elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists.


Living in Flatford, Suffolk. Listed as a resident at Willy Lott’s cottage, which appears in several paintings by John Constable.


Married Gladys P Richards.


Living in Ipswich, Suffolk.


Died in Wokingham, Surrey.

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