Friday, 7 August 2009

Professor Charles Harrison

It is with regret I learned of the death this week of Professor Charles Harrison, for me a real loss as he introduced me to the Renaissance and art history.

To me he was great communicator with a real touch for bringing Art to life in a compelling practical, no nonsense way. His video on Giotto’s Arena Chapel I’ve watched many times it was my introduction to Art History I recommend it to anyone who wants to see a master at work : he, to me, is the consummate communicator the equal of many of the familiar Art Historians we see on TV, people like Robert Hughes, Andrew Graham-Dixon, Vladimir Janscheck– Prof Harrison knew, loved his subject and could communicate it with ease and enthusiasm – he had a wonderful, laconic knowledgeable style with his careful, soft spoken English , to me a perfect presenter and lecturer.

As for his writing, it has been a central part of almost every OU course I’ve ever done: A103 his unit on Seeing I’ve used many times when I’m at a loss as how to view a work, he goes back to the basics giving me fresh view; AA315 his chapter on Durer is written like a who done it as he describes how artists copied each other an excellent read in its own right.

I had the pleasure on AX272 the Summer School to be conducted around the British Museum by Prof Harrison as he described how the human figure was translated by artists from earliest times – he knew and had a passion for his subject. And now most recently on AA318 I see his matter-of-fact, debunking approach when describes how to view a Pollock or how Conceptual art could be valued.

He was very modest as he was really part of the art history he wrote and spoke about – at an AX272 lecture he talked about as young man in New York sleeping on Greenberg’s floor! And we can see and read about his hand and guiding mind in Art & Language.

I am unashamedly a fan: for me he is what Art History is about and what Art History at the OU is about, I for one shall miss him.

With regret


  1. There was a wonderful obituary for him in today's Times
    Some great words for the great man.

  2. came across another respectful obituary on the Frieze web site

  3. A friend from the OU pointed out another obituary :

    the most learned one so far as it makes continous reference to work both academic and artistic

  4. There's a page on the OU ssite where you can post your comment or tribute to Prof Harrison :