William Mark Fisher (1841 -1923)

William Mark Fisher (1841 -1923)

In 1962, Vose Galleries hosted the first American exhibition of Boston-born impressionist William Mark Fisher’s work. In the preface to the accompanying exhibition catalog, M. L. D’Otrange Mastai, the American editor of Apollo magazine, introduced Fisher as an artist of substantial achievement and historical significance, but yet noted that he was unfortunately not given due recognition in later years. A fellow classmate of Renoir, Monet and Sisley, Fisher had studied under the Parisian master Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre until his teacher’s failing health ended his instruction in 1864. With this connection to such early Impressionists, Fisher was thus at the very nucleus of style’s development, but yet his life choices took him away from the limelight that later shown on these great names of French history.

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Although Fisher was born in the United States and studied early-on at the Lowell Institute, his training under George Inness introduced him to the work of Corot and the French Barbizon painters. Recognizing the young artist’s talent, Inness invited Fisher to join his family in their home in Medfield, and upon doing so, the two men formed an immense bond. Inness was so influential that he was likely behind Fisher’s decision to study in France, where he entered Gleyre’s studio one year in advance of Monet and his friends. While works such as The Road to Menil from 1869 attest to his lengthy stay in France, Fisher settled in England in 1872 after a brief return to Boston and a visit to Normandy. This remoteness was likely the cause of his exclusion from the first Impressionist show in 1874.

Fisher’s relocation did not truly have an adverse affect on the artist’s immediate career, however, as he gained nearly instantaneous success in England. He joined the Royal Institute in 1879, the New English Club in 1885, and then gained associate membership to the Royal Academy in 1911. Eight years later, Fisher achieved the highest recognition attainable by a British artist; he was named a full academician just four years prior to his death.

D’Otrange Mastai hypothesized that Fisher was in fact too early to be praised by an American audience appreciative of Impressionism. His pastoral landscapes glittering with dappled sunlight appealed to merely a select few of his contemporaries in his homeland; fortunately, his adopted nation was far more accommodating. Critic Samuel Benjamin noted in his 1877 text Contemporary Art in Europe: “Mark Fisher, a Boston artist, who had to leave his native land in order to find the appreciation he deserves, has won a first rank in the landscape art of his adopted country, and seems to have no superior there in the interpretation of certain aspects of nature.”1 His popularity earned him inclusion in the most prestigious British exhibitions, and today his works can be found private and public collections both in the United States and in Europe.  The Detroit Institute of Art, the Tate Museum and Royal Academy of Arts in London are just a few examples of museum collections to which his paintings now belong.

References: Vincent Lines, Mark Fisher and Margaret Fisher Prout, Father and Daughter (London: R.W.S.Gallery, 1966); Ian M. G. Quimby, “Mark Fisher: an American Impressionist” in Antiques Magazine (June 1967); Vose Galleries exhibition catalog mark Fisher The Impressionist, 1962; Clara Clement, Artists of the Nineteenth Century, 1879 

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