Oil Paintings

Abbott, Harold

Harold Frederick Abbott (1906-1986) was a portrait painter and teacher of art by profession. From 1923 he began studying art part time at the Sydney Art School under Julian Ashton and Henry Gibbons. In 1931, after being awarded the NSW Society of Artists Travelling Scholarship, Abbott moved to London where he spent the next two years studying at the Royal Academy, returning to Australia in 1933. Abbott became highly accomplished in portraiture, still life, and genre paintings, winning the Sulman Prize in 1940.  From 1934–1940 he was a finalist in the Archibald Prize Portraiture was of particular interest to Abbott. His dedication to depicting his subjects with great honesty and likeness is evident in all the portraits he produced thoughout his career. Characteristics of his style were his simplicity in approach, an awareness of compositional balance, use of light to create depth and shadow, and his narrative painterly style.

Abbott's skills in genre painting were well suited to his duties as a war artist; he constructed highly balanced scenes with a strong underlying narrative that provided a comprehensive and truthful documentation of Australia's involvement on the home front, in the Pacific Islands, and in Singapore during the Second World War. Abbott focused on specific elements that formed a part of every soldier's day-to-day life. His genre works provide eyewitness accounts of everyday life at war, ranging from hygiene and recreation, to machinery and repairs, as well as camp scenes which incorporate the local flora, fauna, and surrounding landscapes.

As a war artist Abbott also produced many portraits, each one reflecting his skill in being able to capture likeness. his subjects ranged from high-ranking officials and officers to local natives and Japanese prisoners of war. For all of whom he made portraits, Abbott endeavoured to collect as much information a possible; he would spend time talking with them and observing their behaviour, consequently producing works of a very sincere and personal nature.

In the 20 years following the war, Abbott did very little painting and exhibiting. he instead applied himself to teaching at the National Art School in Sydney, where he later became the head and State Supervisor of Art. In the late 1960s, when he was in retirement, he resumed painting again; his style, however, was markedly different. Narrative and figurative works in oil and watercolours gave way to bold abstract compositions in acrylics. Prior to his death, Abbott held eight solo exhibitions and his work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as well as various regional art galleries across Australia.

Cross Street, Double Bay

Cross Street, Double Bay

Abbott, Harold


Oil on canvas

50 cm x 40 cm


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