Alvan Fisher's preferred artistic subjects were animals and narrative landscapes, as seen in the charming Figures and Horses which is dated around 1857. Similar to other examples from the latter part of his career, the painting demonstrates his embrace of the picturesque over the sublime in order to represent man’s harmonious co-existence with Nature. It also contains several of the artist’s favorite devices used to compose a scene, such as his placement of a strong shaft of sunlight to bring the viewer’s attention to the serene pool of water and the horses in the center foreground, before leading the eye diagonally to a group of figures out for an afternoon ride. Their presence offers a touch of narrative genre to the landscape while their small scale lends depth to the picture and helps the nearby hill and mountain appear much grander to the viewer.
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Fisher’s overall soft pastel coloring is in line with other works created during the 1850s, including Lake in the Mountains with Hunters (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) painted in 1857, and Fishing in New Hampshire (Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY, New Paltz, New York) painted in 1852. Although Figures and Horses is not specifically located, the peak in the left background may be Camel’s Hump in northern Vermont, near the New York border, and interestingly a painting listed in a posthumous 1863 Boston exhibition of Fisher’s work was titled View in Waterbury, Vermont – Camel’s Hump in the distance, from Nature. We cannot confirm that Figures and Horses is the same work, however the exhibited painting’s title, along with sketches he made in 1817 of the Winooski River region, prove that he visited northern Vermont at one point in his career and, as was customary for Fisher, may have referenced these drawings and his own recollections when creating paintings decades later.
 Fred Barry Adelson, “Alvan Fisher (1792-1863): Pioneer in American Landscape Painting,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1982, pp. 386, 603, 883.
By descent through one family since at least the 1970s, to private collection, Lewes, Delaware, 2020
Figures and Horses
by Alvan Fisher (1792-1863)
26 1/8 x 36 inches
Signed and dated lower left: AFisher / 185[7?]Circa 1857
Price upon request