Perkins Harnly's birth in Ogallala, Nebraska, occurred during the same year that marked the death of Queen Victoria in England. Although the Victorian era had ended by the time Harnly became an artist, it remained a source of inspiration for much of his work. In 1928, after spending six years in Los Angeles, Harnly moved to New York City and began to paint watercolors depicting Victorian furnishings and interiors. His work was first exhibited in New York in 1933 at the Julian Levy Gallery and subsequently was represented in the annuals of the Whitney Museum of American Art. During the 1930s he worked for the Index of American Design, a division of the WPA Federal Art Project, documenting Victorian interiors with a satirical edge that captured the era's overblown décor. In the 1940s Harnly worked on a folio of watercolors depicting "A Century of American Interiors, 1850–1950." He moved to California, where he resided until his death in 1986.
National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)