Alvan Fisher (1792-1863)

Alvan Fisher (1792-1863)

Alvan Fisher was one of the earliest American pioneers of both landscape and genre painting. Born to Aaron and Lucy Fisher in Needham, Massachusetts, Alvan grew up in Dedham, where the artist was to reside for the rest of his life. After studying in Boston with John Ritto Penniman, a portrait and ornamental painter, Fisher began his painting career in 1814, the same year that America ended its second war with Great Britain and signed the Treaty of Ghent, and like many Americans, he looked upon his new nation with pride and optimism. He opened a studio in Boston yet traveled extensively, exploring nearly all thirteen colonies of his homeland. Fisher started out as a portrait painter, until 1815, when he began to paint subjects not before seen in American painting: barnyards, scenes of everyday life, winter scenes and portraits of animals, such as prize cows and horses. An influential trip to Europe in 1825 reinforced Fisher’s proclivity for this new subject matter. Fisher exhibited locally at the Boston Athenaeum as well as at such important national venues as the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and achieved critical acclaim as one of a limited number of artists seriously painting the American landscape.

Contact Vose about this artist
Read more about this artist...

While his ability to capture his sitter’s likeness guaranteed a steady flow of portrait commissions, his real love was animal painting and such narrative landscapes, capturing subject matter never before represented in American art. Meeting the needs of a public no longer concerned just with portraiture, Fisher was unique in his ability to turn a profit with these innovative themes.  An astute businessman and prolific painter, Fisher marketed his work extensively and sold nearly one thousand canvases between 1826 and 1860. He continued exhibiting paintings in many important exhibitions in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, South Carolina.  Although he did not travel widely during the last decades of his life, he continued to make sketching trips to the White Mountains and the coast of Maine. His successes opened the doors to numerous future artists and greatly contributed to the founding of a new tradition of painting in America.

References: Dunlap iii, pp. 32-34. See also Robert C. Vose, “Alvan Fisher 1792-1863: American Pioneer in Landscape and Genre,” Connecticut History Society Bulletin 27 no. 4 (Oct. 1962): 97-129; and Vose Galleries Archives. Who Was Who In American Art (1999).

Available Work