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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Rolf Harris: People's painter
Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris first came to the UK in the 1950s
Artist, TV personality and musician Rolf Harris has been made a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours list for his services to entertainment and the arts.

Harris said of his CBE: "It's just wonderful. It's a lovely feeling."

"I'm still very much an Australian but I've lived here for more than half my life now and it's my adopted home," he added on hearing the news.

Harris can add the CBE to his honours collection - he was appointed an MBE in 1968 and an OBE in 1977.

The 76-year-old will be no stranger to the Queen when she formally appoints him as a CBE at a Buckingham Palace ceremony later this year.

Harris recently painted a portrait of Her Majesty, commissioned to mark the monarch's 80th birthday.

The Australian-born artist described the work as "impressionist", a style that has influenced him heavily throughout his working life.

Rolf Harris's Big Event
Harris and the public re-created The Haywain in Trafalgar Square

Harris was born in Perth, Australia, on 30 March 1930 to Welsh-born parents.

Best known in the UK for his television work, Harris made the move from his native country in 1952.

Art was his first love and he travelled to England to study the subject. It was here that he met fellow Australian artist and teacher Hayward Veal, who inspired him to paint in an impressionist free style.

Harris returned to Australia to promote and star in children's television in 1960, returning to the UK in 1962, where he has remained ever since.

Before long he had brought his talents to British TV, most notably on the show Playbox, which ran from 1955-1964 and also featured the likes of Eamonn Andrews, Tony Hart and Johnny Morris.

Hit singles

In the 60s, he finally got the chance to headline his own programme, The Rolf Harris Show, which made its debut in 1967 and ran for seven years.

Rolf Harris
Harris acquired a cult following for his music performances

It was here that he made his mark with his famous "Can you guess what it is yet?" catchphrase, in which he would invite viewers to deduce what he was painting.

But it was not just his art which was attracting attention. He also scored a string of hit singles, starting off with Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport in 1960.

He hit the top three two years later with Sun Arise, and eventually topped the charts with Two Little Boys in 1969.

The late 70s and 80s saw a brief revival of The Rolf Harris Show, and also saw him fronting Cartoon Time and Rolf's Cartoon Club on ITV, which ran for six series.

In the 90s, he found himself appealing to a whole new generation of fans after appearing on Channel 4's late-night show The Word. Soon after he had another top ten hit with his cover version of Stairway to Heaven.


He soon become a cult favourite on the festival circuit, drawing big crowds at events like the Glastonbury Festival.

Harris can also be credited with bringing Aboriginal instrument the didgeridoo to the masses, along with his trademark wobble board.

Rolf Harris
Animal Hospital ran for 10 years on the BBC

The 1960s battery-operated stylophone was also made famous by Harris.

In 1992, Harris was feted when 1,000 people visiting an art exhibition in London were asked to name a famous artist. Of those questioned, 38% said Harris, putting him well ahead of runner-up John Constable.

More recently, Harris has become known for fronting animal-themed shows, kicking off with BBC One's Animal Hospital in 1994. The show won the most popular factual entertainment show at the National Television Awards six times.

Harris has also presented a number of spin-offs including Animal Hospital Down Under and Animal Hospital From Oz, as well as Rolf's Amazing World of Animals and the interactive series Test Your Pet.

Family trait

He returned to art with his live BBC special, Rolf on Art: The Big Event, in which he joined the public in recreating a large-scale version of Constable's Haywain in London's Trafalgar Square in 2004.

His Rolf on Art series, examining the lives and art of famous painters, gained the highest viewing figures for a programme on the visual arts ever.

In 2000 he received an honorary membership from the Royal Society of British Artists, joining a distinguished list that includes Sir Winston Churchill and James McNeil Whistler.

Away from the celebrity spotlight, he has been married to Alwen, who he met while at art school, since 1958 and has one daughter, Bindi.

It seems an artistic streak runs in the family - Alwen is a sculptress and jeweller, while Bindi studied fine art at Bristol Polytechnic and is now a painter.


Rolf Harris on painting a portrait of the Queen

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