Friday, April 6, 2012

John Henry Fisher

John Henry Fisher
born 7 April 1858 St Pancras, Middlesex, England
the son of Henry Fisher and Prudence Lean Hean
arrived Lyttelton, New Zealand
on the
Merope, 27 October 1870 aged 12 years
died 4 October 1948 at his residence 206 Gloucester Street, Christchurch

married 8 March 1883
at St John's Church, Christchurch
by the Rev. H. C. M. Watson
Alice Jane Harrison
eldest daughter of T. Harrison of Christchurch

1861 - 40 Clarence Gardens, St Pancras, London aged 3

above - Alice Jane Fisher nee Harrison and Henry Harrison Fisher in August 1892.
Photograph by Standish & Preece, 218 High street, Christchurch.

above - Gladys Fisher and Henry Harrison Fisher.

above - from left: John Henry Fisher, Gladys Fisher, Alice Jane Fisher nee Harrison, Alan Frederick Fisher and Henry Harrison Fisher about 1898.

Head of Long-Established City Firm is Ninety To-day
"Fifteen two, fifteen four; one for his knob makes five, and I'm out," said Mr J. H. Fisher, pulling the pegs out of the crib board that his father brought to New Zealand nearly eighty years ago.

Mr Fisher, head of an old-established firm of art dealers, was enjoying the eve of his ninetieth birthday with half an hour of his favourite relaxation—a game of cribbage.

Mr Fisher, who is 90 to-day, is known widely throughout New Zea¬land, and many old friends and cus¬tomers called to congratulate him at the shop in Colombo Street this after¬noon. Telegrams had started to flood in yesterday, and plans were well advanced for a family, reunion, which included a visit to the shop.

Genial and alert, his memory unimpaired by the passage of so many busy years, Mr Fisher said to¬day that he was in splendid health for his birthday except that a lame leg restricted his movements. He has a wealth of stories of early Christ¬church, dating back to his arrival at the age of 12, and his life has been one of the threads that make up the yarn that is the history of Christ¬church.

The familiar skull cap on his head, Mr Fisher spoke to-day of the his¬tory of the city, and in particular of the history of the business with which he has been associated for so long. The fourth generation of the family is now represented in the firm.

Trade With Dignity
The record of the firm is more than one of mere commercial success. The making of picture frames and the purchase and sale of pictures is a trade with a quiet dignity derived from the art it serves and those who practise it must have both a love and a know¬ledge of pictures.

Mr Fisher's firm has an associa¬tion with the old families of Canter¬bury which has now extended to the third and fourth generations. It has customers and friends in many dif¬ferent parts of New Zealand. The work of great artists has been exhibited in the shop's gallery and customers of the past included the great Dutch painter, Van der Velden—so worthily represented in the McDougall Art Gallery—who made his home in Canterbury.

Seventy-eight years ago, in 1870, the firm of Steere and Wates, art dealers and picture framers, was bought by Mr Henry Fisher, father of Mr J. H. Fisher. Henry Fisher had been foreman with a leading firm of gilders in London. While with this firm he had carried out many framing commissions for many of the foremost British artists of the day and had been entrusted with the gilding work at Windsor Castle.

For some years, the business was carried on in premises opposite the Bank of New Zealand in Hereford Street, but in 1884 was removed to a site in High Street, and in 1939 to the present premises in Colombo Street. Mr H. Fisher retired from active business in 1905, and two years later, Mr J. H. Fisher was joined by his son, Mr H. H. Fisher. Now, Mr J. H. Fisher is prevented by his lameness from making regular visits to the shop, but two grandsons, Messrs Ken Fisher and David Fisher, are repre¬sentatives of the fourth generation.

John Henry Fisher
Photograph by Steffano Webb, Christchurch

Record of Service
But it is not only the Fisher family which has a record of long service with the firm.Mr
Fisher is proud of the long associa¬tion between the old firm and its employees. He recalled to-day Mr W. H. Cockroft, many years foreman, had retired last year after 60 years' service. The joiner, Mr J. F. Kingdon, has been an employee for 48 years, and another employee, Mr R. Flavell, has a record of 29 years.

One of the most interesting aspects of the firm's work is the restoration of pictures which have deteriorated through age or have been damaged. Mr Fisher recalled that the firm had restored the pictures taken from the old Durham Street Art Gallery, and another achievement was the complete restoration of a Van der Velden which was in a very bad state of repair.

This picture had been rolled up and the canvas was cracked on almost every half inch of its surface.

Commenting further on the work of the firm, Mr Fisher recalled the days of fifty years ago when the framer could not buy hundreds of varieties of ready-made mouldings, but had to make his own. Gilding, too, was done painstakingly by hand. It was a craftsman's job and some of the frames gilded 60 years ago still show no signs of wear.

Many artists have experienced the kindliness of succeeding generations of the Fisher family during the past 78 years. Not only have they been encouraged, and guided in the development of their craft, but instances of tangible assistance have not been wanting and more than one hungry man has had his first good meal for some time after a visit to Mr Fisher's shop.

Early Christchurch
Mr Fisher's memories of early Christchurch are many and varied. It affords remarkable evidence of his long sojourn in the city to learn that as a boy he picked apples on the present site of the New Zealand Farmers' Co-operative Association premises, and took part in the Anniversary Day sports on Latimer Square.

When a man has an individual mannerism in dress it often becomes an integral part of his personality. Thousands of Christchurch people recall Mr Fisher's presence in his shop, and it would have surprised them had he not been wearing his little skull cap. Asked to-day when he started to wear this head cover¬ing, Mr Fisher, for the first and last time during the interview: " You have me beaten."

"My father wore one before me," said Mr Fisher. "I lost my hair early and followed the same cus¬tom. I have several of these caps, and two or three women friends have asked if they may have them when I am gone."

Surrounded by members of his family down to great grandchildren and with a well-warranted pride in his achievements as connoisseur and craftsman, Mr Fisher is enjoying his birthday. It is certain that the day's celebrations will include another bout at the crib board with Mrs H. J. D. Shelden, a family friend, with whom he has been conducting a marathon tournament for a number of years.

A Friend of Artists
Death of Mr John H. Fisher
One of Canterbury's earliest art patrons, Mr John H. Fisher, died this week at the age of 90. Mr Fisher, who was well known as the head of a firm of art dealers established by his father in 1870, helped many of the earliest artists in the province. Many experienced his kindliness, were encouraged and guided in their craft, and received more tangible assistance when in need. His shop in Hereford street and later in High street was a meeting place, and his death severs a connexion (sic) with artists which went back s as far as the days of John Gully, one of the first New Zealand landscape painters.

Count Nerli, a notable Italian portrait painter, who painted Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa and sold the portrait for a song in New Zealand (it hangs now in the Scottish Academy) was well known to Mr Fisher.

Petrus van der Velden, the Dutch painter, who gave Christchurch its first experience of the Rembrandtian artists, was also a frequent visitor to the shop. Van der Velden acted as the mentor of many young artists and made of Christchurch the art centre of New Zealand.

During this period, when art societies were flourishing and the first art gallery was opened in Christchurch, van der Velden gathered a school of young artists about him, many of whom lived a Bohemian life and Mr Fisher's shop was their usual meeting place. Maddren, Walsh, and Sprott were among his followers and a tradition of landscape painting which has been continued by several Canterbury artists was established. Van der Velden's insistence on a profound study of his subject matter was implanted in his contemporaries.

John and Menzies Gibb, Lindauer, who painted the Maori and whose best work is in Auckland, near Goldie's collection and Hoyte and James Peele, were other early artists with whom Mr Fisher was connected.

Mr Fisher's father set a high standard in the work displayed and sold in the shop, and this tradition was continued by his son. Because of his acute understanding of human nature Mr Fisher was an expert salesman and a highly-skilled liaison between artists and patrons. Due in some measure to his work, Christchurch now possesses a representative collection of the works of New Zealanders and has been the selling centre of New Zealand. The work of New Zealanders has been stimulated by the importation, by the firm, of many of the best works of overseas artists.

No comments:

Post a Comment