Articles At A Glance
Harrison Fisher's Beautiful Girls
Stories & Photos by: Carol J. Perry
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, November 2007
During the first quarter of the twentieth century, a young artist named Harrison Fisher became America's arbiter of feminine beauty. His ability to paint lovely young women, at a time before photography had replaced the hand-drawn illustration, earned him a reputation as one of the country's top commercial artists. His delicate drawings and sensitive water colors and pastel renderings dominated the covers and pages of America's best selling magazines. "Fisher Girls" Smiled prettily from the covers of Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, The Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and many more. In fact, Harrison Fisher produced nearly 600 covers for 22 different magazines" between 1894 and 1934.
(Today, Cosmopolitan covers with Fisher art sell in the $40, $50 range. A nicely matted and framed September 1912 Cosmo was recently offered on eBay for $135. A Saturday Evening Post cover, framed, for the same year was listed for $135 also.) Hundreds of Fisher's illustrations appeared within the magazines too, both in advertisements and as illustrations for stories and articles. Fisher worked during what many regard as the "golden age" of illustrators. Some of his contemporaries included such artistic luminaries as Maxfield Prrrlsh, the Leydecker brothers; J.C. and Frank, and James Montgomery Flagg .
In 1877, Fisher was born in Brooklyn, NY, into an artistic family. His father, Hugh Antoine Fisher, was a noted, landscape painter. His grandfather and great grandfather were also artists. Young Harrison's health was delicate, so the family moved to the warmer climate of Alameda, California when he was six years old. His father gave him drawing lessons, and by the time he was 16, he began to sell some sketches to a regional newspaper, the San Francisco Call. Before long he gained a position on that paper as a staff artist. He became adept at preparing fast sketches of accidents and social affairs.
Fisher continued his art education by taking some classes at the San Francisco Art Association and the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, and soon relocated to the San Francisco Examiner, one of the biggest newspapers in the chain owned by William Randolph Hearst. He continued to sketch news events and by the time he was 22 he transferred to New York City, which was the center of the magazine publishing business.
Before long Harrison Fisher's drawings of beautiful, elegant early 20th century women attracted the attention of the publishing world. His success was assured. Besides dominating the "cover girl" field, Fisher Girls appeared on thousands of posters and postcards.
The postcards as well as the magazine covers pictured young women in typical activities of those days. She might be painting, or shopping or riding or attending a fashionable tea. She might be golfing or playing croquet. Sometimes she was in the company of a handsome young man. She often wore a hat in fact Fisher became known especially for his fabulous hats. Many of the Fisher Girls wore opera length gloves and sometimes the pretty girls were posed with pets; cats, dogs or horses.
More than a dozen depictions show Fisher girls wearing those fabulous hats which include Victorian hat pins. These are very desirable among collectors of hat pins. Some collectors search out Fisher images which show tea cups, hand mirrors, handbags, golfing items, picnics...the cross-over appeal is great. Of course many collectors seek out Harrison Fisher illustrations regardless of topic.
One of the largest categories of Fisher collectibles is the great body of postcard art he produced. His images appear on over 500 American and European postcards. Many were parts of series. One series of six cards traces a couple from trousseau to proposal to wedding to honeymoon to new home to baby. The set was often marketed in a long panel frame. Fisher enjoyed a sixteen year relationship with Reinthal & Newman, a prominent publisher of postcards. One of the R&N cards, entitled "The Kiss" has been described as the best selling postcard of all time! Postcards today, depending on the rarity might sell anywhere from a few dollars up to over $500. A notable hard-to-find one is a card from a European publisher depicting a World War I Red Cross Nurse. This card currently sells in the $500-$600 range. The same image was produced as a poster and is valued in the $1000 range. The original pastel on canvas called "The Red Cross" sold a decade ago for $24,000.
Book publishers found Fisher's remarkable talent attractive too, of course. From 1907 to 1914 he illustrated fifteen art books. Some of these are American Beauties, American Belles, Book of Sweethearts, Dream of Fair Women and Bachelor Belles. Current prices for these, depending on condition and on how many color plates each contains, range generally from $200 to $500. Fisher illustrated novels too. Between 1898 and 1931, he illustrated more than 100 of them. An illustrated novel by popular romance writer George Barr McCutcheon today might bring $25 - $50.
Fisher images appeared on an assortment of souvenirs and paper ephemera. His American girls looked out from bookmarks, bridge tally cards, dance cards and playing cards as well as tin beer trays and celluloid-backed pocket mirrors. His drawings also decorated a variety of plates, bowls, vases, glassware and candy tins.
There are many contemporary reproductions of Fisher prints available at reasonable prices. Original vintage prints in good condition are often priced in the $100-$200 range. An original 12 x 16 Harrison Fisher watercolor painting, circa 1915, may fetch upwards. of $1000.
If you'd like to learn more about this extraordinary illustrator, you might enjoy The Complete Works of Harrison Fisher Illustrator by Naomi Welch.
If you have any questions, you can Email us at email@example.com
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