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A Venetian Backwater, c1890. Watercolour.
In 1878 Percy’s brother Melton was awarded a Royal Academy Gold Medal and a travelling scholarship. After touring Italy and Capri, he settled in Venice. At this time there was a lively cosmopolitan community of artists working in the city including Englishmen, such as Whistler, Sargeant and Fildes.
Melton Fisher lived in Venice for 10 years. In 1892 he married a local girl, Alba Stefani, during which period his two brothers Percy and Horace joined him. Horace went on to settle permanently in Capri. Percy worked for a period in Venice before joining Horace in Capri.
This picture shows a quiet canal in Venice. The Venetian group at this time generally painted local narratives rather than architectural subjects. Percy’s style during this period reflected the work of this group and he exhibited a number of local genre scenes inspired by the Italian landscape at the Royal Academy.
Isobel and Bridget Forbes Adam, 1937. Pastel.
Exhibited Pastel Society 1938
Isobel and Bridget were the twin daughters of Sir Ronald Forbes Adam. Sir Ronald had a distinguished military career and was Commandant of the Staff College between September and December 1937. Isobel remembers Percy stopping her mother when they were out walking in the staff college grounds and asking if he could draw her and her twin sister. During the sitting for the painting the two sisters repeatedly swapped poses. The spaniel was their family pet.
During the 1920s and 1930s Fisher increasingly worked in pastel exhibiting regularly at The Pastel Society. The Pastel Society was founded in 1898, Melton Fisher, Percy’s brother was a founding member becoming president in 1921.
The Blue Veil, 1911.Oil on Canvas.
Exhibited Royal Academy 1914
Fisher painted this portrait of his wife Catherine Hudson on his honeymoon in Bruges, 1911. The painting has “Etaples” inscribed on its reverse, Etaples being the home of an artist friend Gwilt Jolley. It is likely that Catherine and Percy visited Etaples on their way to Bruges.
Catherine Hudson was introduced to Percy Harland Fisher by her sister Sylvia, who had been attending one of his painting classes in Camberley. The Hudson family lived at “Cariston” in Pine Avenue and were descended from a railway pioneer. When Sylvia met Percy he was living at Eversley. She took him up socially and introduced him to Catherine Ethel. They married in August 1911. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914. It remained in family ownership for many years, hanging at Gorseland, the family home.
This picture was purchased with help from The Friends of Surrey Heath Museum, local donors and a V&A purchase grant.
The Cottage Door “Gorselands” Woodland Road, c1930. Pastel.
Catherine and Percy moved from a small villa in Frimley Road to “Gorselands” on Woodland Road, shortly after the birth of their son Anthony in 1912. It was to become their family home for the remainder of their lives. Many of the pictures left in the studio at his death depict intimate scenes from around the family house and studio. Percy was also fond of drawing flowers from the garden. The little dog in the doorway was the family dog, James. This pet often appears in his portraits of children.
Temptation (Gypsy child), c1930. Oil on Canvas.
The gypsy community living on the local common were a favourite subject for Fisher. Many of the paintings left in the family’s possession after his death are sketches, watercolours and drawings of the local gypsy community. Although the painting is apparently a young Romany girl, when the museum first acquired the painting a local lady made contact to explain that her sister was the sitter for the picture. She was a Camberley school girl whose look had caught the artist’s eye. She recalled that her sister became bored while sitting for the picture and began picking at the apple in her hands. Mrs Fisher was called into the studio to tell stories to distract her.
Washing on the line, c1920. Oil on canvas.
This painting reputedly shows the view from the artist’s studio in Plantation Row. It is a lively picture and reflects the pictures of everyday life that were one of Fisher’s favoured subjects. Plantation Row was built shortly after the Military College was opened and was developed to house servants and labourers from the college. Fisher retained the studio until his death in 1944.
Mrs Hudson, c 1911. Oil on canvas.
This picture is a portrait of the artist’s mother in law, Ethel Hudson. The Hudsons came to Camberley from the Hawkhurst area of Kent.
They moved to “Cariston” in Pine Avenue, not long after it was built in 1901. John Hudson, Percy’s father in law was descended from a railway pioneer and it was due to his interest in railways that the family lived for a short while in Yokohama in Japan in the 1870s. Mrs Hudson was obviously a formidable woman raising 3 sons and 3 daughters, the second of whom married Percy Harland Fisher.
Fisher developed a national reputation as a portrait painter and had commissions such as one for the Bagot family at Levens Hall in Cumbria. However, he mainly worked on commissions from officers who had settled in or around Camberley. A number of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in the 1920s and 1930s.
Barossa Common. Oil on board.
Percy enjoyed walking in the Royal Military College grounds and had a pass to give him access. Occasionally, he painted views of the grounds but he generally used the grounds as a back drop for subject paintings or portraits. He preferred working on Barossa Common among the gypsies, whose carefree life must have reminded him of his life in Italy.
The Chestnut Hunter. Oil on board
Dogs and horses regularly posed companionably alongside the children in Fisher’s portraits, but increasingly they became subjects in their own right. He had always loved animals and for many years had a cairn terrier called James, who featured in his paintings.
Anthony on a Swing. Oil on board. 1915-1919.
Anthony was Percy and Catherine Fishers only child. Percy painted him on a number of occasions. This is possibly a study for a painting that was exhibited at the RA in 1919. Anthony was born in 1912. He grew up to become an engineer marrying a local girl and settling in Farnborough. Percy painted Anthony on at least one more occasion.
Roses in a Vase. Oil on Canvas.
This formal still life was an unusual subject for Fisher. He preferred to paint wild flowers or flowers in the cottage gardens around his studio in Plantation Row or at Gorseland, his home in Woodland Road.
The Italian Donkey. Oil on board
Percy Harland Fisher followed his brothers to Italy in the 1890s. Both his brothers were awarded travelling scholarships to the Continent by the Royal Academy. Percy followed them out to Italy during the 1890s. During these years Percy painted subject pictures and sketched scenes from everyday life. His sketch books from this time are full of vignettes of animals he encountered on his travels.
A Lakeside View. Watercolour.
Fisher enjoyed walking in the grounds of the Royal Military College. This is possible a view one of the lakes. He had a studio close to the gates of the college in Plantation Row.
Gertrude Fisher by The Lake. Pastel. c1911.
Gertrude Fisher was Percy’s younger sister. She lived with Percy prior to his marriage to Catherine Hudson at The Knightons in Gordon Road. The Fisher family was a close knit family. Both Melton and Horace came to live in Camberley at the end of their lives.