CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

About a Painting - ‘Landscape with Grove of Trees’ by Tomás Harris

PUBLISHED: 01:00 24 February 2015

'Landscape with Grove of Trees, Spain by Tomás Harris, 1962

'Landscape with Grove of Trees, Spain by Tomás Harris, 1962

Derby Museums Trust

Lucy Bamford, senior curator of art at Derby Museums Trust, dicusses a vivid piece by Tomás Harris (1908–1964)

If you should chance to call in to The Museum and Art Gallery in Derby, you may be surprised to discover a whole new vista has opened up before you. A colourful and in some cases surprising selection of landscape paintings drawn from the museums’ collection is currently on view. Many are on show for the first time in over a decade. With works by local and national artists, from the 18th to the 20th centuries, it is a display that celebrates aspects of our enduring – if ever-changing – relationship with the natural world.

Among old favourites by local artists George Turner and John Fineran, an unexpected shot of bright colour disturbs the familiar rhythms of the Derbyshire landscape. Jagged violet hills surround a grove of trees, their gnarled and twisted forms emerging from the splintered arid earth. An apparently impossible rainbow of colours, it is a vivid painting that captures the heat and sunlight of the Mediterranean. The artist, Tomás Harris (1908–1964), had roots in Spain through his mother, Enriqueta Rodriquez. Although the Harris family lived in London, ties to the country remained close with a gallery devoted to the works of Spain’s masters being established by Tomás’s father. Continuing the family business, Tomás went on to become one of Britain’s foremost experts on Spanish art, whilst winning a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London to hone his own artistic skills. By 1962, and the completion of his ‘Landscape with Grove of Trees’, Tomás had retired to Majorca. It is perhaps here, among the mountains and valleys of the Sierra de Tramontana, near his home at Andraxt, that Tomás found the inspiration for this scene, as he did for so many of his later landscapes.

Writing after the artist’s death in 1964, the art historian Anthony Blunt – his dual identity as a Soviet spy not yet unmasked – described the ‘nervous intensity’ of Tomás’s work ‘which reflected the strain under which Tomás was living and working.’ He continued, ‘the technique [was] strongly reminiscent of Van Gogh, but, if one suggested this to him, he absolutely denied ever having intended to imitate this artist.’ Blunt was writing with the benefit of close personal insight. At the outbreak of World War II, Tomás was invited to work for British Intelligence, alongside his friend Blunt, Guy Burgess, and Kim Philby. Whilst the names of these three traitors are now synonymous with the story of the Cambridge Spies, Tomás achieved fame as a leader of what has been described as the greatest double-cross operation of the war – ‘Operation Garbo’ – which misled the Germans about the Allied plans for the invasion of France, and thus secured the success of the D-Day Landings. Tomás was awarded an OBE in 1945 in recognition of his contribution.

A retrospective of Tomás’s work was held at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1975, with many pieces subsequently donated to public museums and galleries by the artist’s family. Derby Museum was among the fortunate recipients of this scheme, which included The Courtauld Gallery, University College, London, the University of Edinburgh, Leamington Art Gallery, Colchester Museums, and the Royal Free Hospital. This rich legacy will ensure that future generations can enjoy the work of this fascinating, if perhaps underrated, artist.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Pat Ashworth talks to Lady Edward Manners about Christmas at the Hall where they’ll be celebrating the first family Christmas for 300 years

Read more

As winter strikes, what strategies have our wildlife developed to help them survive these harsher months

Read more

A look at the festive themes and events at the county’s great houses

Read more

A ten-minute drive from the western edge of Sheffield brings thrill-seekers to a Derbyshire valley where outdoor activities are thriving.

Read more

Andrew Griffiths meets Jim Dixon, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Peak District National Park.

Read more

This walk offers a dance with the Dove and a meander by the Manifold, whilst along the way passing a church, castle remains, country houses and a hollow way

Read more

With winter on the horizon, trees glow with colour, migratory birds arrive and house spiders set off in search of a mate

Read more

Ann Hodgkin investigates a case of the sincerest form of flattery… or industrial espionage!

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Read more

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest

Local Business Directory

Property Search