He was trained as a classical painter in England. He served with the British army in the 40s. He came to the Yukon to teach school in the late 60s. Here, the scenery changed the way he looked as things, and turned him into one of Canada’s most recognizable and loved artists.
Ted Harrison headed for Carcross in the summer of 1968. At the time, his mind was on his new job as a school teacher, but it wasn't long before the Yukon landscape took on almost mystical proportions for him. In later years he would call the territory his Shangri-La.
Ted threw out all the classical painting knowledge he had been taught. He saw the Yukon as a land of vibrant colours and strange shapes. His skies became awash in golds, yellows, purples, reds and pinks. His tilted houses were equally colourful. The ravens were slightly out of kilter. People wore brightly coloured clothes. His hills, valleys and mountains curved hither and yon under the vivid sky.
Ted Harrison had developed a style so distinctive that I remember looking at a particularly stunning Yukon scene, and my sister saying… it looks just like a Ted Harrison painting. In the early days of this style, many critics called his work naïve and child-like.
Many of those detractors would now be hard pressed to afford a Ted Harrison original. Outside the Yukon, his works are contained in the best of collections. To have a Harrison in the art world is to have a Yukon gem.
Ted received international acclaim with the publication of his first book “Children of the Yukon.” Subsequent books include two hard-covered art illustrations featuring the Cremation of Sam McGee and the Shooting of Dan McGrew.
He’s had numerous showings outside the Yukon and the National Film Board made a feature film called “Harrison’s Yukon.” I’ve enjoyed many a pleasant time with Ted and his wife Nicki, both gentle souls, who though they no longer live in the Yukon. Yukoners were saddened to learn of the depature of artist Ted Harrison with his wife Nicky for Victoria, B.C. Their move was necessitated by the deteriorating health of Nicky. They have left a legacy of art which has changed the way many people see the Yukon landscape.
Yukon has received international fame with poet Robert Service, writer Jack London and, now, artist Ted Harrison.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget of Les McLaughlin