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Pixie O'Harris Pixie O'Harris i(A18089 works by) (birth name: Rhona Olive Harris) (a.k.a. Rona Harris; Rhona Olive Pratt)
Born: Established: 15 Oct 1903 Cardiff,
Wales (UK),
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 17 Nov 1991 Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Female
Arrived in Australia: Sep 1920
Heritage: Welsh
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The daughter of a noted portrait painter, George F. Harris, a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and his wife, Rosetta Elizabeth, nee Lucas, O'Harris was the sixth of nine children. She spent her childhood in Cardiff and Sully, Wales, running away from school at the age of thirteen after arguments with her teachers. O'Harris exhibited at the Royal Art Society of South Wales at the age of fourteen. She wrote verses from an early age and started a full-length work at the age of thirteen. O'Harris came to Australia in the Demosthenes with her family in 1920. On the boat coming out people called her 'the Welsh Pixie', and she adopted the name. After a few months in Perth the family settled in Sydney in 1921. Her first regular job was as a commercial artist with John Sands Limited, the printing and publishing company, who sent her to study at the Julian Ashton Art School. O'Harris sold a collection of verses and illustrations to the Sydney Mail magazine, changing her name from Harris to O'Harris after a printer at the Sydney Morning Herald added an apostrophe to her second initial.

Pixie O'Harris is best known as an illustrator. From 1921 to 1924, she worked as a freelance illustrator for the Sydney Mail, the Bulletin, the Triad, the Green Room and for John Sands, the printer. As well as her own books, she illustrated about 20 books by other authors, including Frank Dalby Davison, C. J. Dennis and Ruth Bedford (qq.v.). Her first book commission was to illustrate Cinderella's Party by South Australian writer, Maud Renner Liston (q.v.). The illustrations for her Pixie O'Harris Fairy Book (1925) were done at the time when she lived in Adelaide, South Australia. Her illustrations were also used for other publications including birthday books. O'Harris also edited Humour from 1936 to 1939.

In 1928 O'Harris married Bruce Pratt (q.v.), wool buyer and journalist, who in 1958 was to become editor of the Australian Encyclopaedia. They had three daughters and from 1939 lived in Vaucluse. Over a period of forty years from 1939 O'Harris decorated more than 50 children's hospital walls, schools and clinics. She was awarded the Coronation Medal, the Jubilee Medal and the MBE. Rolf Harris (q.v.), the entertainer, was her brother's son. She was a friend of Miles Franklin (q.v.), and it was she who persuaded Franklin to write Childhood at Brindabella. O'Harris became a landscape and portrait artist in the 1960s with many exhibitions over the next three decades. During the 1970s she fulfilled a longtime ambition to have her own books published in full colour for children at the rate of one per year. The Oxford Companion to Australian Children's Literature (1993): 324-325 concludes: 'Over seventy years, O'Harris wrote and illustrated material which sold in hundreds of thousands of copies. She captured the last of the waning enthusiasm for fairies and wrote formula novels for adolescents just when Nan Chauncy (q.v.) was about to launch a new realism in children's books.'

(Source: Walter McVitty Authors & Illustrators of Australian Children's Books (1989):156-157; Pixie O'Harris Our Small Safe World : Recollections of a Welsh Childhood (1986); Pixie O'Harris Was it Yesterday? (1983)).

Most Referenced Works


  • O'Harris also illustrated an edition of The Wind in the Willows by English writer Kenneth Grahame and published by Rigby in Adelaide, South Australia, 1983.

Affiliation Notes

  • Visited or worked in SA for a period

Known archival holdings

Lu Rees Archives (ACT)
National Library of Australia (ACT)
Last amended 12 Feb 2009 13:50:04
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