SDC Colour Experience, Bradford, plays host to the first major exhibition of Sydney Harry paintings

THE FIRST major exhibition of the paintings of one of the country’s leading colour theorists, Sydney Harry, goes on display at the SDC Colour Experience, Bradford, on 27 October 2006. The exhibition will be in two distinct sections:

Sydney Harry: ‘The Early Years’
Sydney Harry: ‘Exploring Colour’

The exhibition, a lifetime’s work, covers paintings from the 1920s to the 1980s and can be viewed by appointment (please telephone 01274 390955). The exhibition runs until the end of December.

Born in Leeds in 1912, Sydney attended Leeds College of Art where he studied fine art, photography and woven textile design. On leaving college he set up his own design and colour services studio in Leeds following which he was offered a full-time teaching post at Bradford College of Art where he became a senior lecturer in woven textile design and colour as well as photography.

In 1963, as a result of his work with woven textiles Sydney began to treat colour as a subject in its own right, experimenting with his colour theories both in weaving and gouache media. He began lecturing outside of the Leeds and Bradford areas and became increasingly well known within colour circles resulting, through his friendship with WD Wright, professor of applied optics at Imperial College, London and founder member of
The Colour Group of Great Britain, in him becoming a member of the group in 1968.

More lectures followed both nationally and internationally including in 1969 at the University of Stockholm where he presented a paper entitled, ‘Optical Mixtures and Colour Shifts in Modern Painting and Design’ at The Colour 69 AIC Congress. Also that year, he lectured at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting in London. This was a lecture arranged through his friendship with both Harry Thubron and Maurie de Sausmarez. Bridget Riley, whom he later visited with Peter Sedgeley, also attended this lecture.

Sydney continued to lecture up until 1984 at a huge number of establishments throughout the country including Goldsmiths College, St Martin’s School of Art, Bath Academy of Art, the Design Council, the British Colour Council and the Royal College of Art.

In 1984, ill health severely limited his lecturing programme but he continued to paint and experiment with his theories right up until his death in 1991.

Throughout his career Sydney’s work rarely went on exhibition – he had an academic rather than a commercial interest in his work, so this opportunity to view almost his entire life work is an exciting one for both the SDC Colour Experience and for those who have long been admirers of his theories as it presents a first opportunity to see their development through his work.

The work itself is obviously highly colourful but in turn detailed and painstakingly executed. Many resemble the pop art dramatic canvases of the 1960s whilst many simply draw the eye to the wonder of colour and how individual colours work and react with each other – often his paintings employ no more than three or four colours and yet on first glance the whole spectrum of the colour palette seems to have been used.

Sydney’s work is not only an exercise in colour theory but also dramatic and hugely stylish
as works of art – the pieces are timeless in their appeal as both contemporary pieces of art and as one of the most complete demonstrations of the creative and calculated use of colour.


SYDNEY HARRY (1912–1991)


1969–1984 A huge number of venues including:

Goldsmiths College, London
Royal College of Art, Leicester College of Art, Leicester Polytechnic,
Bath Academy of Art, Barry Summer Schools, Nottingham College of Art, St. Martin’s School of Art, Portsmouth College of Art, Maidstone College of Art, University College, Cardiff, Leeds University, Canterbury College of Art, Hornsey College of Art, West Surrey College of Art, Central School of Art, ICI Paints Division Manchester, Embroiderers Guild, Design Council Colour Conferences (carpets), University of Stockholm, Design Council (architects & designers), International Wallpaper Manufacturers’ Assoc., British Colour Education Institute, London (British Colour Council), Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, London.


(Harry did not exhibit much, having an academic rather than a commercial interest in his work.)

1969 Lane Gallery, Bradford. One-man show
1970 ‘Colour’, Upper Gallery, Whitechapel & Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield
1971 Physics Exhibition (Colour Group Section), Alexandra Palace , London
1972 'Colour’, DLI Museum & Arts Centre, Durham
1978 Colour Museum, Bradford, permanent exhibits
1990 ‘From Prism to Paintbox’, Quicksilver Gallery, Middlesex Polytechnic (Roy Osborne)

Contributions to publications :

1969 New Scientist. cover illustration
1970 Op Art. Cyril Barrett, Studio Vista, London
1975 Perception of Light and Colour. CA Padgham & JE Saunders, Bell, London
1975 Colour Theory and Practice. Frans Gerritsen, Studio Vista, London
1980 Colour. Ed. Helen Varley, Mitchell Beazley, London
1983 Colour: why the world isn't grey. Hazel Rossotti, Penguin Books. cover illustration
1984 The Servant of Colour. cover illustration. SDC, Bradford



The SDC Colour Experience, formerly the Colour Museum, is owned and managed by the Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC), the world’s only chartered society, professional body and educational charity dedicated to colour. Online membership of the Society is open to anyone with an interest in colour. There are no formalities and the cost is just £15.00 per annum. Please visit [link below], for more details.