Born in Ladywood, Birmingham and educated at Old Edgbaston School where he formed a life-long friendship with the artist, William Arthur BREAKSPEARE. At age fourteen he entered the Birmingham School of Art in 1869, where he was a student friend of Walter LANGLEY, and then spent two years as an assistant Master, taking private pupils (amongst whom was Kate BUNCE) before attending Verlat's Academy, Antwerp in 1880. William John WAINWRIGHT and Frank BRAMLEY were at Verlat's concurrently.
Harris visited Newlyn in 1881, initially before the first of his two Breton summers, the second of which in 1882 was spent in Pont Aven, where he met Elizabeth ARMSTRONG (later Forbes). He settled in Newlyn in 1883 with his first wife and from 1884-87 the family took over Cliff Castle Cottage, where his son was born in 1884 and baptised at St. Peters, Newlyn on 24th June 1885. His young wife tragically died in 1887 at the age of twenty-five, having been nursed by Elizabeth and others in turn. It was at Cliff Castle, at the invitation of the Harrises, that Elizabeth Armstrong first made the acquaintance of Stanhope FORBES.
After his wife's death Harris moved with his son and a nurse to Belle Vue House, where Elizabeth and her mother also lodged. Forbes was also to join them there after Elizabeth and Stanhope were married. In 1895 Harris left Newlyn finally, and met his second wife, Sally (nee Cornwell), a Penzance girl and mutual friend of Walter Langley, in Plymouth. They were to spend the following three years, in Cardiff, Newport and Bristol where Harris concentrated on portraiture. Sally's close friend, Ethel Pengelly, left in Penzance after their marriage, was to become the second wife to Walter Langley who was widowed at forty-three.
In 1898 Harris returned to Birmingham where he continued to paint portraits. He died, age 50, on 5 January 1906 in Cleeve Prior, near Evesham, Worcestershire (GRO).
[Photo portrait in Hardie 2009 p42]