Richard Harris grew up in New York and graduated from Queens College with a degree in Economics and a strong background in art history. He started his career path at an art reproductions business selling copies of old master paintings to businesses.
His introduction to antique prints began as he worked for two dealers who bought and sold botanical prints and prints with birds and animals. From there he went out on his own, confident in his ability to create his own collections. His story is best told in his own words: “I have accumulated over 1500 objects exploring the related themes of death and mortality.”
Over the past 40 years I have created four distinct art collections that, looking back in hindsight, represent the four different ways of collecting. My first collection was antique illustrated books, a collection I formed while I searched Europe for antique prints for my print business. Running parallel to the book collection, I started collecting prints by Rembrandt, Picasso and Matisse. I enlisted the expertise of several print dealers to find and recommend prints for this collection.
In 2001, I discovered the inspiration for my third collection: objects related to death. I decided that, unlike my print collection, it would not be another “trophy” collection, in which an expert consultant’s taste would determine the content. At this point in my collecting life, I wanted to test my own eye and had the time to devote to the acquisition process. I have accumulated over 1500 objects exploring the related themes of death and mortality.
The natural next step was to commission works of art. During the time I collected prints, I also started to collect works that studied human anatomy. I love the medium of collage, so I decided to commission collages based on these human anatomical prints.
I had finally completed the rare collecting cycle: I began as an inadvertent collector, then collected with the aid of professional curatorial advice, developed into the curator of my own collection, and finally became a collector who, in commissioning works of art, is also part of the creative process.