From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913
Born in Dublin, he was originally a woollen-draper in the Liberties, but took to the practice of art, in which he is said to have been self-taught. But as he appears to have visited England in early life he may have received instruction in London. In 1763, when he was living in Dame Street, he was awarded by the Dublin Society a premium of ten guineas for a landscape. In the following year he moved to Great Ship Street, where he continued to reside until near the end of his life. He sent several pictures to the first exhibition of the Society of Artists, held in George's Lane in 1765, and was a regular contributor to the various exhibitions down to 1801. In 1768 he gained the premium given by the Dublin Society for the best landscape. He was befriended and patronized by John, first Earl of Portarlington, himself an excellent landscape draughtsman and an amateur of the arts, who generally stayed in Fisher's house in Ship Street when in Dublin. From about 1778 until his death he held the post of Supervisor of Stamps in the Stamp Office in Eustace Street.
Some of Fisher's larger pictures possess considerable merit, but his works as a rule are lifeless, cold and mechanical, and he does not appear to have enjoyed much success as a painter. His works were views of actual scenery, and not the classical compositions which then alone found favour. Such success as he achieved was through his several series of engraved views, by which only he is now remembered. In 1770 he published six large Views of Killarney engraved from pictures by himself by various artists in London. The original pictures measured about 20 inches by 15 inches. The engravings, which measure 21 by 16 inches, were:
1. View of the upper Lake of Killarney from part of Turk Mountain. Engraved by P. Mazell.
2. View of the Lake of Killarney from near Dunlow Castle. Engraved by T. Mason.
3. View of the Eagle's Nest. Engraved by E. Rooker.
4. View of the Canal between the Lakes. Engraved by P. C. Canot.
5. View of O'Sullivan's Cascade. Engraved by V. Picot.
6. View of the Lake of Killarney, from the Park of the Rt. Hon. Lord Kenmare. Engraved by T. Vivares.
These six views were published in 1770 by Fisher himself at his house in Great Ship Street. In 1772 he had published in London six large engraved views of Carlingford and its vicinity, viz.:
1. View of the Bay and Mountain of Rostrevor and the Harbour of Carlingford. Engraved by V. Picot.
2. View of the Harbour and Castle of Carlingford. Engraved by P. C. Canot.
3. View of Carlingford Harbour, etc., from the new road to Hillsborough. Engraved by T. Vivares.
4. View from the bottom of the mountain road opposite Narrow Water. Engraved by P. Mazell.
5. View of the Ferry and Castle of Narrow Water. Engraved by J. Mason.
6. View of Carlingford Harbour and Warrenpoint from the domain of Roger Hall, Esq., near Narrow Water. Engraved by J. Mason.
These engravings were uniform with the Killarney set, measuring 21 by 16 inches. In the same year in which they were published Fisher issued a set of four small views, at two and sixpence each, etched by himself. These were "Cork," "Belfast," "Waterford" and "Kilkenny." In 1789 appeared an oblong folio volume, "A Picturesque Tour of Killarney, describing in twenty views the most pleasing scenes of that celebrated Lake, etc., etc. Dublin: printed for the Author by L. White, No. 86 Dame Street, 1789." The book was dedicated by the artist to his friend and patron, John, Earl of Portarlington. The twenty views were engraved in aquatint by Fisher himself. Bound with these were the six large engravings of Killarney which had been issued in 1770. Two later editions of the work were issued, one with a map and with slight variations in the wording on the title-page, published by Jones in Dublin in 1790, price two and a half guineas, and another published in London in 1791.
In 1792 Fisher commenced the issue of a series of views of scenery in Ireland aquatinted by himself, in numbers each containing six views at the price of half a guinea. The whole series, comprising sixty plates, was issued as a volume in 1796 (although the title-page bears the date 1795) as "Scenery of Ireland illustrated in a series of prints of select Views, Castles and Abbies, drawn and engraved in Aquatint by Jonathan Fisher." In the preface the artist refers to his work as "an attempt, the first of its kind ever executed in this Kingdom." The sixty plates in the volume, which are better done than the Killarney ones, are:
1. The Harbour of Dublin from the Lighthouse to the City.
2. Appearance of the City of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in the Phoenix Park.
3. The Mills of Chapelizod, with distant view of Palmerstown.
4. The Secretary of State's House at Palmerstown.
5. The Wooden Bridge at Hermitage, on the River Liffey.
6. View on approaching Luttrellstown Park.
7. Leixlip Castle on the River Liffey.
8. The Abbey at Castledermot, Co. Kildare.
9. The Castle and Lake at Castleblaney.
10. Desmond Castle, etc., at Adare.
11. Killaloe, on the River Shannon.
12. Derry Castle, on the River Shannon.
13. View of the River Liffey near Luttrellstown Park.
14. Remains of the Abbey, etc., between Trim and Newtown.
15. View of the River Shannon from Peterfield.
16. Blarney Castle.
17. Hayes Bridge on the River Avonmore at Avondale.
18. Fenner Rock on the River Boyne.
19. St. Catherine's, on the River Liffey.
20. South-east View of Roscrea Castle.
21. View from Kilmacassie Glen, Co. Wicklow.
22. Lislaghtin Abbey, County Kerry.
23. Ballymurtagh Mine Rock, Co. Wicklow.
24. View in the Dargle.
25. The Demesne of Lucan, on the River Liffey.
26. Wicklow Abbey.
27. Glen Malour.
28. View down the Avonmore from Avondale.
29. Kiltimon Castle.
30. Tinnehinch, County Wicklow.
31. Salmon-Leap, near Leixlip.
32. St. John's Abbey, Kilkenny.
33. Castle Ward, on Strangford Lough.
34. Lough Erne, from Belleisle.
35. Rockbarton Castle, from Askeaton.
36. View of Strabane.
37. North-west View of the City and Bay of Dublin.
38. Jerpoint Abbey.
39. View of the River Slaney at Clamahon.
40. Brittas Castle.
41. Lough Derg.
42. Glen of the Downs.
43. Gulna Water on the River Liffey.
44. Remains of the Abbey, etc., at Ferns.
45. The Lake of Belvedere.
46. Newtown-Barry on the Slaney.
47. Mountgarret Castle, Co. Wexford.
48. Devil's Glen, Co. Wicklow.
49. Poula Phouca.
50. Dunbrody Abbey.
51. South View of the City and Bay of Dublin.
52. Castle Archdall and lower Lough Erne.
53. Remains of the Castle, etc., at Ballygeeroge, Co. Wexford.
54. The Water-fall in Powerscourt Park.
55. Entrance into the Valley of Glendalough.
56. North-east View of the Valley and remains of Glendalough.
57. View of the Arched Gateway, etc., at Glendalough.
58. Remains of the Cathedral, etc., of Glendalough.
59. North-west View of the Valley, etc., of Glendalough.
60. View of the principal Lake at Glendalough.
In Grose's "Antiquities of Ireland" are four plates after drawings by Fisher, viz.:
"Castle of Roscrea," "Ballaghmore Castle," "Cullum Castle," and "Rockbarton Castle."
A large Aquatint, "View of the Lighthouse in the Harbour of Dublin," was separately published in 1780 by A. Robertson, Savile Row Passage, London, and dedicated by the artist to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, etc., of Dublin.
Amongst pictures by Fisher, exhibited or otherwise known, are:
View of Tinnehinch. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1765.
Powerscourt Waterfall taken from the Octagon room in the Park. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1765.
A Distant View of Powerscourt Waterfall. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1765.
View of Belvedere, near Mullingar. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1765.
View of Beauparc. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1766.
View of Slane. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1766.
The Casino at Marino. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1767.
View of Curraghmore. Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1768.
Four of the six Views of Carlingford, "now engraving in London." Soc. Artists, Dublin, 1771.
View of the Eagle's Nest, Killarney. Major Sirr's sale, 1841.
View of Ross Castle. Major Sirr's sale, 1841.
A View of Lymington River with the Isle of Wight in the distance. Drawing. [Victoria and Albert Museum.]
A Landscape. Drawing. [British Museum.]
Dunganstown Castle. [R. I. Academy, Beranger Collection.]
Blarney Castle. [R. I. Academy, Beranger Collection.]
Carrigrohan Castle. [R. I. Academy, Beranger Collection.]
In or soon after 1805 Fisher moved from Ship Street to No. 12 Bishop Street, where he remained until his death which took place in 1809. In his will, dated 16th March, 1803, and proved 8th December, 1809, he left to his friend Jeremiah D'Olier his "picture of the Artist's Club, in caricature, painted by Ennis"; and to Henry Graham (q.v.), "who has lived with me for many years," all his painting materials, etc. He further directed that all his pictures by old masters should be sold under the direction of Graham. The collection was accordingly disposed of by auction at No. 12 Bishop Street. It consisted of sixty-five works, and included pictures by Barret, Wilson and Angelica Kauffman, a landscape by Gainsborough, two pictures, "Morning" and "Evening," by Loutherbourg, specially painted for Fisher in 1778, and others by Italian and Dutch artists. Fisher married a Miss Price, "a handsome, clever and fine-looking woman."
Charlotte Milligan Fox, sister of the poet Alice Milligan, was a founding member of the Irish Folk Song Society and an indefatigable field collector of Irish traditional music. Her singularly important work on Irish haprers is here presented for the twenty-first century reader. This edition of Annals offers a much greater number of illustrations than were included in the original 1911 publication, a full biographical introduction, an extensive bibliography of the writings of Milligan Fox and an appendix discussing the variant texts of Arthur O’Neills Memoirs.
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