Harari was born Richard (Dick) Falk Goldman, in Rochester, New York. He studied at the Syracuse University School of Fine Arts. He went to Paris in the 1930s, where he studied with Fernand Léger from 1932–34; he also studied with Marcel Gromaire and André Lhote. Following a visit to Palestine he returned to the United States in 1935, which is when his step-father invented "a name better suited to an important artist".
Harari was active in leftist politics, and helped found the American Artists' Union in 1936. Some of his works of this period record his reaction as a Jew to the rise of Fascism in Europe; an example is The Dictators (1938, oil and collage on canvas; now in the Jewish Museum, New York). His first New York exhibition was in 1939, at Mercury Gallery. He worked in both a semi-abstract style, and a precise realist style; inspired by the work of William Michael Harnett, he painted many trompe l'oeil still lifes. Several silkscreens from this period are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Yale University Collection.
In the 1940s he produced artwork for the covers of magazines, including Fortune. He also contributed cartoons to The New Masses, which led to his being blacklisted in the 1950s during the McCarthy era. Using his gifts for Realism, he became a successful portrait painter affiliated with Portraits, Inc. One of his portraits is in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Harari taught at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan from 1974 to 1990, and at the Art Students League from 1984 to 1999, where most of his classes were filled to capacity. He stopped teaching when he could no longer see. With the Reagan presidency, his political leanings became increasingly conservative. A patriot to the end, and per his request, his coffin was draped with the American flag. He was elected into the National Academy of Design in 1990 as an Associate member and became a full Academician in 1994.
He died blind and deaf in Halthorne, New York in 2000.
-  New York Times Obituary, July 25, 2000
- 1992 Interview with Harari conducted by G. Stavitsky for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
- Hananiah Harari obituary, New York Times, July 25, 2000
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