Harry Pugmire – Port Stephens Artist

The Harry Pugmire Collection

Self portrait by Harry Pugmire

Self Portrait: Harry Pugmire

The University has recently received two wonderful donations of the works of Harry Pugmire, a well-known artist from the Port Stephens area. We are most grateful to Leonie Bell and Louise Phillips for their generosity in entrusting these original works to our care.

Mrs Phillips has kindly donated numerous framed works by Harry Pugmire. These will be photographed as soon as possible and added to our online collections.

The collection donated by Leonie Bell consists of pastel works, watercolours, and pencil sketches from Mr Pugmire’s sketch books, as well as some framed works. In addition, she has given us a copy of her book from which an extract appears below, digitised images of the sketches (which are now available to all on our Flickr site), a catalogue of the works and some very useful research material.

The following information has been extracted from Leonie Bell’s book, Art of Harry Pugmire : treasure to hunt. Nabiac, N.S.W. : L. Bell, [2009].


Harry Pugmire was, according to Art Critic Melville Hansom in the 1950s, “one of the greatest exponents of the medium of pastel within Australia.” Harry’s prolific output of work occurred between 1938 and 1970. Born in Scarborough, England on 25th December 1901, Harry arrived in Australia in 1927 as a Cabinet Maker. Harry enlisted in the A.I.F. between 1940 and 1945. His earliest dated sketches appear to place him in Queensland, but research shows that he worked with a picture framing business as framer and gilder, possibly Young and Lucas Picture Framers, Gilders etc. Foster St. Sydney, while he lived near the Presbyterian Church in Castlereagh Street. Harry’s close friendship with Alan Baker and his wife Marjorie provided many painting excursions and joint exhibitions as they were all members of the Royal Art Society.

Harry moved to Nelson Bay in the 1960s where he earned a living by the sale of his art works until his death by coronary occlusion on the 25th April, 1971 aged 69 years. At the time of his death Harry was blind in one eye, possibly due to the occupational hazard of pastel particles. In 1970 Harry executed a remarkable self portrait conveying the feelings of pending blindness, which was recently donated to the University of Newcastle by Louise Phillips.

Harry exhibited in the Wynne Prize for Landscape works in 1938 with “Old Cremorne”, 1939 with “Morning Middlehead”, 1940 with “Castle Creek”, 1952 with “Mount View”, 1953 with “West Wind”, and 1959 with “National Park.”

Alan Baker painted Harry’s portrait for the Archibald Prize in 1952 and Garrett Kingsley submitted a portrait of Harry in 1960 and both were selected.

Being a member of the Royal Art Society, Harry regularly exhibited his works with his contemporary artists: William Dobell, Norman Lindsay, Arthur Boyd and many others.

Attention needs to be directed to the many styles Harry used: hatching, cross hatching, contour drawing, simplicity of line, abstract patterns and brush work, to mention a few. His feature of form, whether trees, animals, clouds, landform or buildings provide the primary interest in the work. Some of his brief sketches show the lyricism of line with eloquent beauty. Others teach the finesse of focus, so necessary for the power of the composition. Yet the intention of some sketches is to imprint the truth of tone necessary to give space dimensionality.


You may view the digital version of the Harry Pugmire Collection at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157625586288114/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s