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The Many Doors of Harry Harlow

harlowdoor00.jpgSEACOAST ARTISTS

He was a man on a mission. After retiring to Portsmouth, artist Harry S. Harlow painted every major colonial doorway in the Piscataqua region – at least 200 all told. Today his highly accurate work has become an important tool for those studying the architecture of bygone days, and grand homes that are often lost to history. (see feature and photos below) 




Magnificent Obsession – Colonial Doors of the Piscataqua

Harry S. Harlow was born in Haverhill MA on July 19, 1882 and trained as a commercial artist. From 1909 to 1915 he exhibited as a decorator and craftsman member of the Society Arts and Crafts, Boston. During World War I he moved to Portsmouth and served in the NH State Guard. In 1918 he w as a draftsman at the Navy Yard, but listed as an artist boarding on Dennett Street. By 1920 he had established a studio in Haverhill and worked for the next 30 years as a commercial artist under the banner of Stockbridge Art Studios.

A Reader Remembers HMS HARLOW (click here)

Returning to Portsmouth in 1927 he married Marion McGraw, the daughter of carpenter Charles Mcgraw, whose familiarity with local old buildings aided Harlow’s interest in painting them. Those paintings cemented a friendship with city librarian, Dorothy Vaughan, who called him "the kindest, gentlest man you’d ever know."


In 1946 Vaughan recommended the Harlows to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities as custodians of the 1664 Jackson House. He painted that old house from several angles in different seasons over the years. In 1947, the couple created a Jackson House Card Shop there for summer sales. In a nearby Harlow Studio on Dennett Street, he offered paintings, designs, illustrations, bookplates, and coats of arms, as well as cards and illustrations for advertisements. The Harlow Press also hand printed Ye Olde Strawberry Banke, a booklet of his woodcuts with brief histories written by Marion Harlow.


A sketch in American Magazine (Summer 1947) noted that during the Great Depression he began "to paint doorways of fine old Colonial homes for which Portsmouth is noted." In 1940 fifty of those Portsmouth doorway paintings were shown in the New Hampshire State Library in Concord, NH.

By 1950 he had finished 200 colonial revival paintings of local landmarks as they may have appeared when new. Harlow and his wife later used the paintings as models for woodcuts for cards. He also painted ships, portraits of shipbuilders, and imagined scenes from local history -- such as his painting of Paul Revere during his ride to Portsmouth and Benjamin Franklin with his lightning rod on the 1716 Warner House. Harlow’s interest in 17th century buildings may stem from his Pilgrim ancestry, but his Colonial Revival paintings of refined 18th century homes are both architecturally correct and highly romantic. He died in 1963.

If you have information on other Harry S. Harlow paintings, please contact the Portsmouth Historical Society at 603-426-8420.

SEE MORE Portsmouth Doors here 

Copyright (c) 2008 by Richard M. Candee / Portsmouth Historical Society


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