John Harris III was an engraver working in the 19th century. He reproduced the works of many popular animal and sporting artists of the time. He also executed some military scenes.
There is some debate over Harris’ origins. Some evidence seems to suggest that he is the son of watercolourist and illustrator John Harris II (1767-1832). However, the alternating dates of his lifespan also suggest he might have been the son of a cabinet maker. The historical records remain reluctant to offer up any clarity on this matter.
What is known, however, is that Harris worked his whole life in London and that the prints he produced are of the finest execution and skill. Harris would often translate the works of the prominent animal and sporting artists of the time such as John Frederick Herring Snr (1795-1865), Henry Alken (1785-1851), and James Pollard (1792-1867). Such works were incredibly popular during the early 19th century. Horse owners commissioned works of their prized pets which emphasised their strength and breeding. The upper classes desired prints of their favourite country sports, such as steeplechasing and foxhunting. The market was booming, and engravers such as Harris were an essential part of the dissemination of these images, producing reproductions for publication.
Harris worked predominantly in aquatint, an intaglio printmaking technique through which tonal effects are produced. The result of this painstaking work, which could take weeks or months to complete, are glorious reproductions of the original painted works. Harris captures the gleaming, slick coats of the prized mares, their muscles flexing, heads held high. His figures are top-hatted and tailored to the right dimensions, looking in place sat upon their steeds. Many of his works include detailed landscaped surroundings. Here, Harris’ skill in executing vacillating skies is notable.
Harris would then commonly add hand-applied paint in order to add vibrant colour and really bring his scenes to life. The ochre and umber coats of the horses seem to glisten. The countryside of delightful sport becomes luminous, inviting the viewer to step into the scene.
Harris’ works were often published under the publishers Ackermann and Fores, and he seems to have been kept in busy employment for most of his life. He continued to reproduce the works of famous animal painters, suggesting that his work was pleasing to them.
Whoever James Harris III might have been, there is no doubt that the prints left behind demonstrate both his skill at engraving and the vital nature of the craft to 19th-century Britain.
Born in London, Britain.