Focusing on British art from the 19th-century to the present, the collection includes a gift of watercolours by the local Rev John Haslam, including works by Samuel Palmer and JMW Turner. The modern collection holds significant paintings by Stanley Spencer, Walter Sickert, Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud and Ivon Hitchens. Over the past ten years the museum has acquired photographic works by Helen Chadwick, Andy Goldsworthy and Boyd Webb, and is prioritising the collecting of new works by artists who use film and digital media in their practice.
The museum’s general collection includes sizeable groups of Chinese, Japanese and Continental wares with 20th-century studio pottery. In addition, the Harris Museum is home to the Mrs French Perfume Bottle Collection, the largest scent bottle collection in the country. Individual works from the permanent collection are regularly rotated throughout the gallery. Temporary exhibitions are curated with works from the permanent collection alongside a number of visiting touring exhibitions.
Turning the corner of a shopping street into the market square, the Harris Museum towers above you — set almost as if it were on a plinth. The grandeur of the exterior of the building is matched by the elegant interior — a grand building with grand aspirations.