Jim Harrison’s journey as an artist seems to have begun when he first climbed onto a sign painter’s scaffold on the side of McCartha’s Hardware in Denmark, South Carolina. The Coca-Cola sign that he began that day with his mentor, J. J. Cornforth, was the first of more than 100 similar signs he painted over the next few years and shaped the future work of this South Carolinian in many ways.
Now, an established artist and writer, Harrison has more than 100 limited edition reproductions to his name. Reminiscent of his earlier experiences as a sign painter, his work is known for chronicling earlier twentieth century rural life. His strong feelings for rural America touch on every aspect of earlier ways of living, and his subjects — railroad stations, churches, one room school houses, country stores, covered bridges, and farm buildings — representing the spirit of an agrarian society.
“I sincerely try to put meaning to all of this in hopes it has some historical value. The subjects I’m interested in certainly need to be captured in books and on canvas. They were an important part of our past,” Harrison said. “With my art what you see is what you get. I hope that my paintings need no explanation. I simply want to communicate my message to the common man on the street who claims to have no knowledge of art but does know what he likes.”
Throughout his more than 40 years as an artist, Jim’s work has included trademarks. His extensive research into American advertising and his passion for capturing this nostalgic part of our nation’s history is evident in his work. Hammer Galleries of New York sums it up best: “Jim Harrison is the country’s leading Twentieth Century advertising artist.”
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