FISHER, EDWARD

(b. 1722, d. about 1785)

Mezzotint Engraver

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin in 1722, being baptized on the 18th November of that year in St. John's Church. His father was Charles Fisher, of Wood Quay, hatter, who was Master of the Feltmaker's Company in 1721 and died in 1752; his mother, Mary Lambe. Pasquin says that Edward was originally himself a hatter; but the books of the Feltmaker's Company preserved in the Record Office, Dublin, do not contain any record of his apprenticeship or connection with the trade.* Of his early life and art-training nothing is known; probably he was a pupil in Dublin of John Brooks or Andrew Miller, but no engraving done by him in Dublin is known. At what time he went to London is also unknown; the earliest date on any of his prints is 1758. As he published several of MacArdell's mezzotints he may, on his arrival in London, have spent some time in that engraver's studio, perfecting himself in the technicalities of engraving in mezzotint of which he was to become so brilliant an exponent. His work soon attracted attention and he was classed with Houston and MacArdell as early as 1762.

"Houston, MacArdell and Fisher," says Horace Walpole, "have already promised by their works to revive the beauty of mezzotint." He engraved the works of many of the best artists of the day; but it is to his fine series of plates after Reynolds that his fame and present popularity is mainly due. One of the best of them, perhaps one of the finest mezzotints done by any artist, is that of "Lady Sarah Bunbury"; others of his most successful plates are "Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy," "Hope Nursing Love," "Kitty Fisher" and "Admiral the Hon. Augustus Keppel." Fisher was a most painstaking worker and strove to reproduce every detail in a picture with scrupulous exactness. Reynolds is said to have criticized Fisher's work as "injudiciously exact"; but his work with all its delicacy of treatment, exactness and careful finish, is nevertheless strongly and boldly modelled and shows a command of the technicality of the art unsurpassed by any other mezzotinter. He exhibited a number of his prints at the Society of Artists between 1761 and 1776, and was admitted a member of that body in 1766. From 1763 to 1778 he was at the Golden Head on the south side of Leicester Square, the house in which Theodore Gardelle, the miniature painter, murdered his landlady, Mrs. King, for which he was executed in 1761. In 1778 he moved to No. 11 Ludgate Hill. He died about 1785.

Chaloner Smith catalogues sixty-three portraits by Fisher, as well as ten plates of heads from the "Vicar of Wakefield," from his own drawings, published in 1776. After his death a number of his plates were altered, the lettering being erased so as to produce false proofs, a point to be borne in mind by the collector.

* Several persons of the name were connected with the Feltmaker's Company. A Thomas Fisher was Warden in 1703; another Thomas was carrying on his trade as a hatter in Waterford about 1718, and his apprentice, Henry Fisher, was admitted a journeyman hatter in Dublin the same year. A John Fisher was a Free Brother of the Company in 1732 and Warden in 1737.

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