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 Joseph Gurner Fisher  (1832 - 1916)

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Lived/Active: Michigan      Known for: landscape scenes-charcoal drawings

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Michigan River Landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Joseph Gurner Fisher, or J.G. Fisher as he signed his work, was born in Stroud, England, and came to the United States as a boy, the family settling in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.  By 1863, he was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he lived and worked the rest of his life.

According to Grand Rapids city directories, Fisher worked as a baker in the mid-1880’s and later in a sawmill.  Although he received no formal training, that did not seem to deter him from considering himself an artist for by 1890 he was listed in the city directory as such.

Fisher worked in oils, watercolors and crayon and, according to his brief biography in the 1976 Michigan State University exhibition “Early Michigan Paintings,” he was known as the “Charcoal King.”  The catalog further states: “During his career, Fisher contracted to sell all his works for twenty-five dollars a week to A. Augustus Healy, an art dealer and president of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum).  This agreement apparently proved more lucrative for Healy than for Fisher. 

Most of Fisher’s subjects were local scenes which he drew directly from nature.  It is estimated that he executed over one thousand drawings, mostly in charcoal.  When he worked with charcoal, he often blackened the entire paper surface with charcoal and then erased portions with the top of a rolled piece of chamois.”

For many years the artist maintained a studio in the Michigan Trust building in Grand Rapids.  He was also president of the Grand Rapids Art Club for a time, the first art association in Western Michigan.

According to his obituary Fisher died of old age – he was eighty-four – at the residence of his daughter on March 7, 1916.

Early Michigan Paintings
, Michigan State University exhibition, 1976; Grand Rapids City Directories, 1884-1914
Obituary, Grand Rapids Press, March 8, 1916
Gibson, Arthur Hopkin, Artists of Early Michigan, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975

Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Historian, East Lansing, Michigan

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