Harry Quilter (24 January 1851 in London– 10 July 1907 in London), was an English art critic, writer and artist.
He was the youngest of five children of William Quilter (1808–1888), first president of the Institute of Accountants, and a collector of watercolours, and younger brother of William Cuthbert Quilter the politician. His mother, his father’s first wife, was Elizabeth Harriet, daughter of Thomas Cuthbert. Born at Lower Norwood, south London, on 24 January 1851, Harry Quilter was educated privately, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, at Michaelmas 1870; he graduated B.A. in 1874 and proceeded M.A. in 1877. At Cambridge he played billiards and racquets, and read metaphysics, graduating the Moral Sciences Tripos of 1873 in the third class.
Quilter was intended for a business career, but on leaving university travelled abroad, and studied in Italy. A student of the Inner Temple from 3 May 1872, on returning to England he spent six months in studying for the bar, mainly with John Fletcher Moulton; he also attended the Slade School of Art at University College and the Middlesex Hospital. He was called to the bar on 18 November 1878. An attack of confluent smallpox damaged his health.
Quilter subsequently did not settle into a career, but undertook numerous projects. Between 1879 and 1887 he lectured on art and literature in London and the provinces. In 1885 he studied landscape painting at Van Hove’s studio at Bruges, and in 1886 was an unsuccessful candidate for the Slade professorship at Cambridge in succession to Sidney Colvin. From 1894 to 1896 he ran boarding schools at Mitcham and Liverpool on a system which he had himself formulated, and on which he wrote an article, “In the Days of her Youth”, in the Nineteenth Century (June 1895).
As a critic Quilter roused the anger of J. M. Whistler by his frank criticism of the artist’s Venetian etchings. He further angered Whistler by his “vandalism” in re-decorating Whistler’s White House, Chelsea, which he purchased on 18 September 1879 and occupied till 1888. Whistler had had to sell the house after winning his libel case against John Ruskin but being awarded only a farthing in damages: his legal costs bankrupted him; Quilter refused then to sell it back. Whistler’s antipathy to critics was concentrated upon Quilter, to whom he always referred as “Arry” and whom he lashed unsparingly at his death.