A TORQUAY gallery was vandalised with black paint to cover a Rolf Harris painting on display in the window. The 83-year-old Australian entertainer was recently revealed by the Sun newspaper as the unnamed fifth suspect in the Operation Yewtree police investigation into claims of a sexual offence.
Threats were made against staff at the Triton Gallery on Monday, who refused to remove the artwork. Around 1am on Tuesday morning, police were called to reports of criminal damage at the gallery. According to a Devon and Cornwall police statement: “(A) male suspect has used his hands to smear black paint over shop window before making off from the scene. Damage has been estimated at £300 as specialist cleaning required. The man is now being sought by police.”
Rolf Harris’s wildlife collection and a series of Australian and American landscapes are currently on sale at the gallery, with limited edition framed paintings fetching up to £950.
The Triton gallery, which has been the focus of media attention since the incident, declined to comment further. De Montfort Fine Art, Rolf Harris’s publishers were unavailable for comment. There have been no further reports of vandalism or damage at other galleries stocking Rolf Harris pictures.
Rolf Harris was born in Bassendean, WA and studied art at school before his first solo exhibition aged 16 in Perth. He dropped out of university, studied teacher training and worked as a swimming coach. Months of hospitalisation for suspected polio, which turned out to be a viral infection, led to the life-changing decision to move to the UK.
Harris arrived here aged 22 in 1952 after a long sea voyage. Disappointed with art school, a chance meeting with subsequent mentor Hayward Veal, a leading Australian artist in London, led to a living as a portrait painter.
In 1955, Rolf Harris began his long TV career with popular series on art and animals and success as a singer-songwriter with hits such as ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’ and his ‘Jake the Peg’ routine.
Rolf Harris returned to painting later and was commissioned to paint the Queen’s eightieth birthday portrait in 2005. He was made CBE in 2006 and awarded the Order of Australia in 2012.