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Artists Artists

1875 - 1934
Photo: The Society of Illustrators
Harrison Fisher: American Imagist

At one time, Harrison Fisher’s ‘Fisher Girl’ was as well known as ‘The Gibson Girl’. Fisher made a name for himself in the history of American illustration due to his uncanny ability to paint beautiful women. His ‘Fisher Girl’ and, more importantly, his ‘American Girl’ were recognized as the epitome of feminine beauty in America during the first quarter of the 20th century. She was lithe, elegant and beautiful, but also athletic, independent, and intelligent. Cosmopolitan magazine in the 1920’s called Harrison Fisher, “The World’s Greatest Artist” saying that “There is an underlying ideal that dominates his paintings. His ideal type has come to be regarded as the type of American beauty: girls, young with the youth of a new country, strong with the vitality of buoyant good health, fresh with clear-eyed brightness, athletic, cheerful, sympathetic, and beautiful.” They went on to say, “'The American Girl' is practical, adventuresome, active, and above all, attractive. No one can portray more of this attractiveness than Harrison Fisher.”

Harrison Fisher was born in Brooklyn, the son of Felix Xavier Fisher and grandson of Hugo Antoine Fisher, both artist immigrants from Bohemia. In 1886, the family left New York and moved to Alameda, California near San Francisco. Two years later Harrison’s mother died. In 1893, Antoine Fisher’s art was exhibited at the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, and he felt comfortable enough to open a studio on Battery Street in San Francisco. Felix Fisher had already started to teach his two sons to sketch and paint as soon as they arrived in California. He took them on camping trips up and down the Pacific coastline sketching the magnificent scenery. Harrison had shown promise quite early having excelled at drawing from the age of six. Coupled with his father’s training and natural talent, he enrolled at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, and as a teenager sold illustrations to local newspapers. The popular national magazine Judge was soon publishing Harrison’s works. Those early commissions brought him to the attention of the San Francisco Call, and he was hired as a staff artist drawing society functions, sporting meets, and illustrating news items. After a couple of years he joined the San Francisco Examiner, the largest newspaper in William Randolph Hearst’s stable, and sketched news events exclusively. In 1897, Fisher was given a requested transfer to Hearst’s New York American. Barely two weeks later he got a joined job as in-house cartoonist and illustrator for the fabulously famous Puck magazine. His career was careening ahead with recognition from everyone who came into contact with his work. His name grew in reputation and he very much enjoyed the new found recognition from the Examiner and Puck.

By 1900, he was doing freelance assignments for the Saturday Evening Post as well as commissions from other respected journals including McClure’s, Life, Scribner’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan. Hearst tried devilishly to keep him busy to deter others from commissioning this now famous illustrator. Hearst’s newly renamed magazine, The American Weekly, gave him more assignments than any normal illustrator could complete, yet he was able to continue to accept freelance work in advertising from Armour’s Beef, Warren Featherbone Co. and Pond’s Soap. But the Saturday Evening Post kept him busiest. His greatest successes were with his vibrant drawings of beautiful American girls, which he immodestly dubbed ‘The Fisher Girl(s)’. They became the most sought after and rivaled other illustrators’ idealizations of the American female.

In March, 1908, Success magazine published a milestone piece by Fisher illustrating an article by Oliver Opp entitled, ‘The American Girl.’ That article engendered the rage for Harrison Fisher’s beautiful girls. The average wage for a woman was approximately $5 per week, while the girls portrayed by Fisher were living a life of luxury at mansions in Newport, playing tennis or traveling with “our motoring millionaires” between country clubs. The article states quite boldly, that “since Charles Dana Gibson has given up his pen and ink work for oil paintings, Mr. Fisher has become his natural and popular successor.” In 1905, Gibson had retired and the stage was set for Fisher. Gibson was never able to recreate the fervor for his ‘Gibson Girl’ for ‘The American Girl’ was everywhere, and she was portrayed in color. A “well-bred and healthy minded American girl is delightfully free from pose. Mistress of herself, she looks out upon the world with a frankness and an assurance born of the realization that she is an accepted ornament of society and quite sure of respectful consideration.”

In June 1910, an article published in Cosmopolitan entitled, ‘The Father of a Thousand Girls’, adorned Harrison Fisher with a nickname forever more. That same year, the ‘Fisher Girl’ had outdistanced all competitors in popularity. In 1913, Holland magazine mentioned that Fisher was making more than $75,000 a year and his success continued with illustrations published in literally dozens of books and articles on the artist appeared in Vogue and periodicals everywhere. His ‘Fisher College Girls’ appeared in both Ladies’ Home Journal and Scribner’s Magazine at the same time, with neither client complaining. Between 1907-1914, the ‘Fisher American Belles’ was published in more than a dozen art books. By 1920, the fame of Fisher’s earlier competitors, Gibson, Christy, Hutt, and Boileau, had all been superceded.

Fisher  painting hangingThe artwork of Harrison Fisher appeared on over 80 covers of the Saturday Evening Post. From 1913 until his death in 1934, Fisher created almost every cover for Cosmopolitan magazine. In his later years Fisher restricted himself to doing portraits of famous personalities and performers as well as society’s grand dames and gentlemen. In 1927, he did portraits of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, perhaps the crowning achievement in defining the era, initiated by Fisher with art images and confirmed by Fitzgerald with words. In 1922, Cosmopolitan Print Department did a promotion for art prints by Fisher and Jessie Willcox Smith entitled 'Let These Great Artists Help Decorate Your Home,' which sold for 25 cents each.

When Fisher died in 1934, George M. Cohan delivered his eulogy. Harrison Fisher’s estate was valued at $297,000, excluding real estate in Westport, Connecticut and California. The paintings were valued very low as a contemporary explained that illustrations had already been paid for and published and therefore “are practically of very little value”. Fisher himself believed that they had little resale value. Some 113 pictures were appraised at $565 and 53 pen and ink drawings were valued at $159. After his death, a relative kept a few paintings and burned over 900 remaining artworks, at his request.


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  • Constantin Alajalov
  • Rolf Armstrong
  • Stanley Arthurs
  • Clifford Ashley
  • John Atherton
  • William Aylward
  • Joyce Ballantyne
  • McClelland Barclay
  • Cecil Calvert Beall
  • Arthur Becher
  • Mary Jane Begin
  • WT Benda
  • Gerrit Beneker
  • Anna Whelan Betts
  • Ethel Franklin Betts
  • Walter Biggs
  • Edwin Blashfield
  • Enoch Bolles
  • Franklin Booth
  • S Cole Bradley
  • Paul Bransom
  • F Sands Brunner
  • Duane Bryers
  • Al Buell
  • Edward Ulreich Buk
  • Charles Livingston Bull
  • Clara M Burd
  • Hal Burrows
  • Harrison Cady
  • Howard Chandler Christy
  • Frederick Stuart Church
  • Benton Clark
  • Matt Clark
  • John Clymer
  • Dean Cornwell
  • Douglas Crockwell
  • George Hughes
  • Peter Hurd
  • EO Hurst
  • Henry Hutt
  • Elbert McGran Jackson
  • Robert C Kauffman
  • JF Kernan
  • Rockwell Kent
  • WHD Koerner
  • John LaFarge
  • John LaGatta
  • FX Leyendecker
  • JC Leyendecker
  • Henry Linnell
  • George Luks
  • Reginald Marsh
  • Richard Field Maynard
  • Frederic Kimball Mizen
  • Thomas Moran
  • Rudy Nappi
  • Thomas Nast
  • Thornton Oakley
  • Violet Oakley
  • Cushman Parker
  • Maxfield Parrish
  • Edward Penfield
  • George Petty
  • Coles Phillips
  • Henry Pitz
  • Edward Potthast
  • Maurice Prendergast
  • Norman Price
  • Howard Pyle
  • Ethel Ream
  • Sidney Reisenberg
  • Frederick Remington
  • Louis Rhead
  • Norman Rockwell
  • Alex Ross
  • Charles M Russell
  • Russell Sambrook
  • Mead Schaeffer
  • Jes Schlaikjer
  • Frank E Schoonover
  • Remington Schuyler
  • Barbara Shermund
  • Everret Shinn
  • John Sloan
  • Jessie Willcox Smith
  • Walter Granville Smith
  • Henry J Soulen
  • Paul Stahr
  • Alice Barber Stephens
  • Herbert Morton Stoops
  • Haddon Sundblom
  • Saul Tepper
  • Leslie Thrasher
  • George T Tobin
  • Alton Tobey
  • Rico Tomaso
  • Charles Twelvetrees
  • Alberto Vargas
  • Elihu Vedder
  • Harold von Schmidt
  • Colonel Charles Waterhouse
  • Thomas Webb
  • Sarah Stilwell Weber
  • Albert Beck Wenzell
  • Andrew Wyeth
  • Jamie Wyeth
  • NC Wyeth