Harry Pugmire was, according to Art Critic Melville Hansom in the 1950s, “one of the greatest exponents of the medium of pastel within Australia.” Harry’s prolific output of work occurred between 1938 and 1970.
Born in Scarborough, England on 25th December 1901, Harry arrived in Australia in 1927 as a Cabinet Maker. Harry enlisted in the A.I.F. between 1940 and 1945. His earliest dated sketches appear to place him in Queensland, but research shows that he worked with a picture framing business as framer and gilder, possibly Young and Lucas Picture Framers, Gilders etc. Foster St. Sydney, while he lived near the Presbyterian Church in Castlereagh Street. Harry’s close friendship with Alan Baker and his wife Marjorie provided many painting excursions and joint exhibitions as they were all members of the Royal Art Society.
Harry moved to Nelson Bay in the 1960s where he earned a living by the sale of his art works until his death by coronary occlusion on the 25th April, 1971 aged 69 years. At the time of his death Harry was blind in one eye, possibly due to the occupational hazard of pastel particles. In 1970 Harry executed a remarkable self portrait conveying the feelings of pending blindness, which was recently donated to the University of Newcastle by Louise Phillips.
Harry exhibited in the Wynne Prize for Landscape works in 1938 with “Old Cremorne”, 1939 with “Morning Middlehead”, 1940 with “Castle Creek”, 1952 with “Mount View”, 1953 with “West Wind”, and 1959 with “National Park.”
Alan Baker painted Harry’s portrait for the Archibald Prize in 1952 and Garrett Kingsley submitted a portrait of Harry in 1960 and both were selected.
Being a member of the Royal Art Society, Harry regularly exhibited his works with his contemporary artists: William Dobell, Norman Lindsay, Arthur Boyd and many others.
Attention needs to be directed to the many styles Harry used: hatching, cross hatching, contour drawing, simplicity of line, abstract patterns and brush work, to mention a few. His feature of form, whether trees, animals, clouds, landform or buildings provide the primary interest in the work. Some of his brief sketches show the lyricism of line with eloquent beauty. Others teach the finesse of focus, so necessary for the power of the composition. Yet the intention of some sketches is to imprint the truth of tone necessary to give space dimensionality.
Source: Leonie Bell, Art of Harry Pugmire : treasure to hunt
Nabiac, N.S.W. : L. Bell, 
Portrait of Harry Pugmire by Alan D Baker submitted for the Archibald Prize in 1952 (Courtesy of Gary Baker)