Robert Harvey was born in 1927 in Milton, Massachusetts. His father Leon was a teacher and coach at Thayer Academy in Braintree, and Bob was raised in a house on the campus and attended Thayer through graduation in 1945. At Thayer Academy, Harvey illustrated his high school yearbook. He studied art at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston, then went into the service, and then returned to art school on the G.I. Bill for returning World War II veterans.
He was married in 1950 to Carolyn Brenan, also a graduate of the Museum School, and settled in Marshfield, where he has lived ever since. After a brief stint with a commercial printing operation, he went into business designing and building homes on the South Shore. He later taught at the Museum School of Fine Arts School in Boston, and taught woodworking at the Silver Lake schools in Kingston, but returned to the business of designing and building homes and restorations until retiring in 1992.
As a youth, he liked to work with his hands, both creating art and doing carpentry work, and has been doing both ever since. Infectious bacteria gave Robert Harvey the inspiration to become an artist when the now 84-year-old oil painter was in fourth grade. “In those days, you stayed at home in bed for a month, so I learned to draw,” he says, referring to the scarlet fever that kept him homebound, “I copied the Seven Dwarfs and Mickey Mouse.”
In the shop behind his house that doubles as his studio, Harvey has amassed many years’ worth of tools and albums full of photographs he has taken that serve as the subjects for his oil paintings. He also builds his own frames for his paintings.
Harvey likes painting on birch plywood in particular. He paints primarily with oils, although he has also painted with watercolors. He has also enjoyed carving, even making his own line of wooden automobiles.
Harvey tried abstract art for a time, but stopped painting when carpal tunnel syndrome caused difficulty painting. After his surgery, he continued painting with oils and returned to painting as he had before.
After retiring, Harvey started landscape painting because he was inspired by the world outside the homes he had worked on as a building contractor. That’s when he starting taking the photographs stored in the albums in his shop, separated under titles like “sky marsh” and “open marsh.” In particular, cloud formations interest him.