The successors to the stylish Gibson Girls created by Charles Dana Gibson, Fisher's idealized women reflect an aspirational degree of wealth and social ease. They ride horses, play tennis, swim, go motoring in newfangled automobiles, and graciously bask in the admiration of attractive young men. These century-old images from a moment in our country's cultural history will appeal to enthusiasts of graphic art and illustration as well as to students of American art and popular culture.
About the Author
The career of Harrison Fisher (1877–1934) coincided with the rapid expansion of possibilities for color printing and the huge popularity of weekly and monthly periodicals. Fisher's much-acclaimed covers for Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Ladies Home Journal made him a household name.
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The Artwork of Harrison Fisher
By Harrison Fisher
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE FATHER OF A THOUSAND GIRLS
Harrison Fisher was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1877. His father Hugo, an artist himself, started teaching Harrison and his older brother, Hugo, about art at an early age and played a major role in developing their artistic talent. When Harrison was nine years old the family moved to California. He studied art at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art (now called the San Francisco Art Institute). In 1894 the United States Playing Card Company featured his illustration, Laughing Water on a deck of playing cards—his first published image. That same year, Judge Magazine published his political cartoon, Japan-Made America, on the back cover—his first published cover. He achieved both of these milestones at the age of sixteen!
William Randolph Hearst noticed Fisher's work in the San Francisco Examiner and, in 1897, sent him to New York City to illustrate the New York Journal. He also did both interior and cover illustrations for magazines and periodicals such as Puck, The Saturday Evening Post, Woman's Home Companion, and The Ladies' Home Journal. In 1906, Hearst rehired him to work for the American Magazine, the first syndicated Sunday magazine supplement. This put the "Fisher girls" in homes all across America.
In 1907, Fisher's work began to appear on the cover of Hearst's Cosmopolitan, and the magazine soon dubbed him "the father of a thousand girls." He was the top cover artist for Cosmopolitan in 1909 and made $60,000 in 1910. He continued to create covers for Cosmopolitan for 22 years—almost 300 of them. Cosmopolitan called Harrison Fisher "The World's Greatest Artist," saying that "There is an underlying ideal that dominates his paintings. His ideal type has come to be regarded as the type of American beauty: girls, young with the youth of a new country, strong with the vitality of buoyant good health, fresh with clear-eyed brightness, athletic, cheerful, sympathetic, and beautiful."
The "Fisher girls"—all-American women with hourglass figures and decorative hats—were the new models of feminine beauty. They soon became the standard for women, making Harrison Fisher an obvious successor to Charles Dana Gibson and his "Gibson girl." Success magazine stated, "Since Charles Dana Gibson has given up his pen and ink work for oil paintings, Mr. Fisher has become his natural and popular successor ... (a) well-bred and healthy minded American girl is delightfully free from pose. Mistress of herself, she looks out upon the world with a frankness and an assurance born of the realization that she is an accepted ornament of society and quite sure of respectful consideration." One of Harrison's favorite models was Titanic survivor Dorothy Gibson (no relation to Charles Dana Gibson). She appeared on numerous covers and postcards (see pages 41, 61, and 110).
In addition to his portraits, Fisher illustrated over 100 novels and short stories. He also volunteered to help the U.S. war effort during WWI by producing posters for the Red Cross (see page 152). As Fisher's popularity grew, his images were put on everything imaginable—postcards, pocket mirrors, sheet music, and household items.
His expertise on feminine beauty made him the perfect choice for the role of beauty contest judge. He even had his own beauty contest in 1910 to find the real "American beauty." The winner can be seen on page 112.
Harrison Fisher never married, but had a close companion—his secretary Kate Clemens. He died in 1934 at the age of 57 after undergoing a medical procedure, leaving his entire estate to Kate. George M. Cohan delivered the eulogy at his funeral. At Fisher's request, 900 pieces of artwork were burned, with only a few pieces kept by relatives.
Over his lifetime, Harrison was a proficient artist, painting approximately 15,000 women and drawing 2,000 illustrations. He had a captivating style and was a master at capturing small nuances. In 1997 Harrison Fisher was inducted into the Illustrator's Hall of Fame.
Excerpted from American Beauties by Harrison Fisher. Copyright © 2012 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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