Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Royalist Rolf Harris, CBE, AM turns 80

One of the best known Australians living in Europe can celebrate his 80th birthday today: Rolf Harris, CBE, AM. He is an outspoken admirer of the Queen of Australia, Queen Elizabeth II, and never wavered in his loyalty to the Monarchy.

Rolf Harris, artist, musician, singer, TV presenter and one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers was born in Perth, Western Australia, on 30th March 1930. He has been awarded the CBE, is a member of the Order of Australia and has won many honours for his work in the entertainment industry.

He has been a champion swimmer, has had chart topping hits, written best selling books and has been voted the best entertainer ever, at Glastonbury. His paintings have been exhibited in London’s National Gallery and he is an honorary member of the Royal Society of British Artists. His Animal Hospital series was five times winner of the National Television Awards and he presented BBC TV shows Rolf Harris’s Star Portraits and Rolf on Art, which made TV history when it gained the highest ever ratings for an art programme.

Portraying The Queen
In 2005 Rolf Harris spent two months producing the official portrait of The Queen to mark her 80th birthday, which she celebrated on 26th April 2006. For the painting, The Queen wore a pearl necklace and brooch made for her to mark Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother's 100th birthday. The portrait took two months to complete and became an obsession, Harris waking up in the middle of the night to be drawn back to the canvas:

"I wanted to avoid that state portrait thing with the jewels and the pomp and splendour," he said. "I wanted to capture the lady as she is, with her humanity and reality." In this endeavour, he tried to make her smile.
In his painting of the portrait of The Queen, Rolf Harris was following a family tradition — Harris' grandfather painted a portrait of The Queen's grandfather, King George V (in which King George V was inspecting the troops). The portrait was exhibited in the Australian National Portrait Gallery in Canberra for six months, after Harris gave the prestigious annual lecture there in 2008.

His portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which was unveiled by Rolf Harris on 19 December 2005 at Buckingham Palace, was the subject of a programme The Queen, by Rolf, which was screened to a record breaking viewing audience on BBC One in 2006 in the UK. The ABC’s first transmission of the documentary The Queen, by Rolf on 23rd April 2006 attracted the high Australian wide TV audience of 1.28 million. This was the largest audience for this slot this year, and larger than any ABC audience for any programme in that week. But that programme was not broadcast as the same time as a major live football programme.

In June 2006 Rolf Harris figured on the Queen's Birthday Honours list and was made a Commander of the British Empire.

Rolf Harris is the first artist to be commissioned by the Royal Australian Mint to design the new commemorative one dollar silver kangaroo coin. When it was launched, special editions of the coin sold out immediately. In July 2008 he was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Awards (ARIA) Hall of Fame and in December 2008 he presented the Annual Lecture on Portraiture at the official opening of the new National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. In the same month, he starred in a sell-out season at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse Theatre.

At 80 he is still a very active, creative and lively artist. And on his birthday the RadicalRoyalist wishes the Royalist across the seas a happy birthday and many returns of this day. We need men like him.

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