Donald Harvey was born in England in 1930. He first studied commercial arts and later Painting and Design at the West Sussex College of Art. After graduation, Harvey attended teachers college the Brighton College of Art. He began his extensive teaching career in Wales. He taught there at an Art college for four years. He then spent a year travelling in Sicily and Spain, drawing inspiration from the places. It was after this year away that he decided to focus on developing his career as an artist.
Harvey immigrated to Canada in 1958. He lived on the prairies for three years before settling permanently in Victoria in 1961. It was then that he began his instrumental position at the University of Victoria’s Visual Art Department. He taught at UVic until 1992, serving as Department Chair twice in his career. During this time, Harvey continued to paint and in the 1970’s travelled to France to do so. There he re-framed his ideas about the representation of landscape and created a series of diamond-shaped abstracted works, some of which are now part of the university’s collection. Don Harvey’s body of work consists largely of landscape scenes reminiscent of the English modernist landscape tradition as well as non-representational images. His images communicate ideas about the relationship between the natural and built environments. In his monumental mural, the Carmanah Valley Experience, Harvey illustrates both the integrity and vulnerability of one of BC’s old growth forests. He describes the work, “The idea (was) of course that you were almost about to walk into the forest, so the forest became a unit in which you were a participant. And as you walked around it...it changed...So your physical experience is not in a normal perceptual cocoon (the installation) is very much trying to put you in the physical negotiable space of the forest itself and its dangers. “