Rolf Harris

Rolf Harris

The profile below was published in 2011. In June 2014 Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on four girls between 1968 and 1986.

Rolf Harris is a much-loved Australian artist, singer, musician, all-round entertainer and adopted national treasure. He has strong Welsh roots, as his parents emigrated from Merthyr Tydfil and his grandfather was Welsh artist George Frederick Harris.

Rolf Harris was born in Perth, Australia on 30 March 1930. He was the son of Cromwell and Agnes Harris, who had previously emigrated from Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales.

Harris attended Perth Modern School in Subiaco, and the University of Western Australia. It was here that he met his wife, the Welsh sculptress and jeweller Alwen Hughes, while they were both art students. They married on 1 March 1958.

In 1952, Harris left Australia for Europe. He studied at the City and Guilds Art School in 1953 and after two years, slightly disillusioned as an art student, he met with Australian artist Hayward Veal - who he had long admired. Veal invited him on a two week course at Heatherly's Art School in London. He was to become his mentor.

In the mid 1950s Harris's paintings were exhibited in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy for two consecutive years. His television career also started to take off around this time as he worked on children's television programmes such as Playbox, Small Time and Musical Box in the late 1950s.

He returned to Perth in 1960 and starred on children's TV series there, and stayed for a spell in Canada before returning to the UK in 1962.

Rolf Harris painting in Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, France - painting water lilies in the style of Monet for the programme Rolf on Art in 2001

Rolf Harris painting in Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, France - painting water lilies in the style of Monet for the programme Rolf on Art in 2001.

Harris returned to UK screens in the early 1960s with BBC programmes Hi There and Hey Presto it's Rolf. He was already an established television personality when his series The Rolf Harris Show began airing in 1967, which continued to run in various formats throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1973, he performed the very first concert in the Concert Hall of the newly completed Sydney Opera House, to huge acclaim.

Harris presented further children's television programmes Rolf Harris' Cartoon Time (on BBC1 in the 1980s) and Rolf's Cartoon Club on ITV, between 1989 and 1993. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in January 1989.

He endeared himself to millions as the host of successful BBC television show Animal Hospital in the mid 1990s, which followed the day-to-day running of the RSPCA Harmsworth Memorial Animal Hospital in north London. The show won The National Television Awards most popular factual entertainment show five times.

Harris presented BBC series Rolf on Art between 2001 and 2007, and also Star Portraits with Rolf Harris between 2004 and 2007. In November and December 2002, the National Gallery exhibited a collection of Rolf's art.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) on 17 June 2006, having previously been created a Member (MBE) in 1968 and an Officer (OBE) in 1977.

Rolf Harris outside Buckingham Palace  while filming The Queen By Rolf

Rolf Harris outside Buckingham Palace while filming The Queen By Rolf.

The BBC commissioned Harris to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to mark her 80th birthday in June 2006, which was documented in the programme The Queen By Rolf. He unveiled the portrait on 24 November 2006 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, where it remained on display for a couple of months.

Harris has written and illustrated books about music, painting, cartoon drawing and animation as well as novels and short stories. His books include True Animal Tales, Beastly Behaviour, Rolf Harris Song Book and his autobiography Can You Tell What It Is Yet?

Harris is also a successful musician and has enjoyed chart hits with singles including Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, Sun Arise, Two Little Boys, and Stairway to Heaven. He creates his inimitable style with the use of instruments such as the Wobble Board, stylophone and didgeridoo.

On Friday 25 June 2010 Harris played on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival and also performed at 2010 Bestival Festival on the Isle of Wight in September.

In 2010 a new national exhibition tour entitled A Life In Art was established to mark his 80th birthday, and to celebrate his contribution to the art world over half a century.

In February 2011 Harris embarked on a search for some of the greatest artists to be inspired by Wales in the BBC Cymru Wales series, Rolf on Welsh Art.

On 30 June 2014 the veteran entertainer was found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls. The 84-year-old was convicted of 12 attacks between 1968 and 1986. One of the victims was a childhood friend of his daughter, Bindi. Another was aged seven or eight.

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