A Welsh portrait painter George Frederick Harris with his family arrived in Western Australia in 1920. He soon realised that Perth would not provide enough commissions to provide for his children, so in 1922 he moved most of the family to Sydney.
George Harris was the father of Pixie O’Harris and the grandfather of Rolf Harris and at one time served as the chairman of the Royal Art Society Cardiff.
Statham’s Quarry Gooseberry Hill, the subject of this painting, was established in 1894 by Thomas Statham and William Burton. The quarry provided the materials for much of Perth’s roads and following Statham’s death in 1920 the quarry was owned and operated by the Perth City Council. The quarry ceased operation in 1949 and is now used for recreational purposes.
This social realist work by Harris depicting men at work beneath the intense summer sun is unusual for its time. The tendency for artists of the period was to paint idyllic images of the landscape and ignore the reality of everyday toil.
Through this picture Harris has shown his ability to quickly come to terms with the Australian light and landscape. He has also provided a small vignette of the quarrymen’s day and the tasks they had to perform with the facilities available to them.