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 J. P. Fisk  (late 19th century)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: factory fire painting

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Ad Code: 3
J. P. Fisk
from Auction House Records.
Union Wadding Co Fire, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1870
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Skinner Inc, Marlborough:
Following is the Skinner Auction House commentary on the painting by J.P. Fisk auctioned by their house on June 5, 2004 in Boston.


Most extraordinary among the auction's paintings is the Painting of the Union Wadding Co. Fire, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1870, by J. P. Fisk (lot 104, $75/125,000).  The Union Wadding Co. produced cotton wadding and batting, and suffered one of Pawtucket's most destructive fires on September 10, 1870.  The event was depicted in meticulous detail by railroad commuter and eyewitness, J. P. Fisk, whose work records the position of the buildings, the steamers, the firemen, the passing railroad trains, the churches and dwellings in the distance, as well as the onlookers, against the backdrop of Pawtucket's skyline lit by the fire's orange glow.

Existing documentation of the fire provides interesting, vivid commentary on the fire.  A passage from the Providence Daily Journal's contemporary account in the September 10, 1870, issue notes: "the watchman found the new dye room at the south end of the building to be on fire.  He gave the alarm, which does not appear however to have been communicated with much alertness and by the time the engines were all on the ground, the fire had gained considerable headway and was running along inside the whole length of the building.  Water was scarce and the small quantity in the cisterns in the neighborhood was soon exhausted without much effect on the devouring flames which poured a fiery rain of sparks through the windows and fed rapidly on the rafters of the roof."

More can be found in the Pawtucket Gazette and Chronicle in May 1872, which reports, in part: "The Union Wadding Company was the largest and best arranged establishment of the kind in the country."  The newspaper also reported in 1872 that "through the efforts of the Fairmount Steam Fire Engine Co. no. 3, this scene is being transferred to canvas by a Boston artist."  The painting hung at the Union Wadding Co., whose records date to 1771, until its recent closing.  Three books relating to the Union Wadding Co. will accompany the lot.

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