Garden By The Sea (helen Fisher C.1885) Original Watercolour By Victorian Child For Sale
offers are invited for this rare surviving example of a painting
by a child growing up in late Victorian England.
Handwritten on both front and back is the name of its young
Helen (also known as Nellie) Fisher
(1875 – 1960).
Also hand-inscribed on the back is the date February 1888.
However, for several reasons, we believe that Helen probably painted
this work a few years earlier and that both the date and her name were added
later by an adult – perhaps by her mother, Ada Fisher.
Helen, born in 1875, would have been 12 or 13 years old in
1888. In our view, this little painting
looks more like the work of a younger child.
Second, at the risk of stating the obvious, with roses in bloom,
a sailing boat out at sea, girls in identical summer dresses and boys wearing
sailor suits and straw hats – this doesn’t look much like either the English
seaside or an English country garden in February!
Finally, although quite similar, the handwriting does not
entirely match the signature on other artworks that Helen definitely did
sign. It is much closer in style to the
‘May Fisher’ signature and ‘February 1888’ date on a painting, apparently
depicting the same location, by Helen’s elder sister, May Chatteris
Fisher. We assume that the same adult
was responsible for the ‘signatures’ and dates on both paintings.
To compare both sets of ‘signatures’ and dates for yourself,
please see our other current sales for ‘Garden Tennis’ by May Chatteris Fisher. You can also
make up your own mind about whether the two paintings depict the same location:
although the gardens look almost identical, the houses do not.
Both paintings, ‘Garden by the Sea’ by Helen Fisher and ‘Garden Tennis’
by May Chatteris Fisher, have remained in the ownership of May’s descendants
ever since her death in 1910 and have never previously been offered for sale.
‘GARDEN BY THE SEA’ BY HELEN FISHER
7.01” / 178mm wide
4.53” / 115mm high
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UNITED STATES & CANADA
FOR AS LITTLE AS £4.75 GBP.
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Helen was born,
the youngest of three sisters, into a family long associated with the north
west of England, and particularly with the thriving
industrial and commercial metropolis of Manchester. Her paternal grandfather, Thomas Makin
Fisher, was a Manchester saleeer, while her mother’s father, a calico
printer named John Chatteris, moved to the city from London in the 1840s.
Helen’s father, William Henry Fisher (b. 1839),
seems to have followed in his father’s footsteps, as he is described as an
saleeer, architect and surveyor in official records of the time. Also recorded is his marriage in 1871, in
Manchester Cathedral, to Ada Chatteris (b.1848).
The couple’s three daughters were born in
consecutive years: Margaret (known as Daisy) in 1873, May Chatteris in 1874 and
Helen (known as Nellie) in 1875. All
three girls tried their hand at painting and drawing as they grew up together,
firstly at Withington, about four miles south of Manchester city centre, and
later at Bramhall, now a suburb of the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport.
Helen and May showed artistic promise at a very
early age, producing
many charming and imaginative paintings and drawings that have survived as rare
examples of original art by a Victorian child.
an adult, and after studying at the Manchester Municipal School of Art, May
became an accomplished book illustrator and designer of bookplates, with a
particular talent for portraying children and animals. In 1901 and 1904 she illustrated two books of
children’s fairy tales for the publishers Sherratt & Hughes: ‘Ignoramus’ by
E. Todd and ‘Pixie’ by Frances Reddaway.
In 1902, her works were praised in a survey, published in New York, of
female bookplate designers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1904, at Bramhall, May married the established
landscape painter, William Smallwood Winder (1869 – 1910). William and May lived in the English Lake
District at Staveley, Westmorland (now part of Cumbria), a few miles from the
market town of Kendal. They exhibited
their art together and were among the founding members of the Lake Artists
Society. The couple’s only child,
Arthur, was born in 1905.
1906, Helen married the journalist and historian Robert Ensor (1877 – 1958) in
Manchester. The couple had three sons and two daughters and
lived near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.
Helen died in 1960, two years after her husband.
and May both died suddenly in 1910 and Arthur was then brought up by relatives.
This watercolour by Helen Fisher has
been handed down in the Winder family ever since May’s death and has never
previously been offered for sale.
Please see our
other listings or visit our shop, Terence Kerr Images, for other original drawings and
paintings created by both Helen Fisher and May Chatteris Fisher, as children. We also currently offer individual original
pages from ‘May’s Picture Book’, a hardbound volume of nursery rhymes, fairy
stories & ‘cautionary tales’, hand painted & handwritten for May, when
she was 5 or 6 years old, by her cousins.
Although this small
original late 19th century watercolour is in good overall condition
for its age, it shares an obvious defect with a similar painting which we are
currently offering, ‘Garden Tennis’ by May Chatteris Fisher, Helen Fisher’s elder
sister. Both paintings were stored
folded for many years and although they have been kept flat since they were recovered
from an attic in 1997, both have a permanent vertical crease in the centre (see
our scans). Although the lightweight
paper bearing ‘Garden by the Sea’ has not yellowed significantly, there are
some yellow-brown patches on the back (see our scans) that seem to have been
caused by light rather than an age-related condition such as ‘foxing’. Fortunately, this discolouration is hardly
noticeable from the front. The painted surface is generally clean & Helen’s
watercolours are still bright. The only other
‘defect’ worth recording is the slightly ragged top edge towards the upper
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Rest of World
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of both. Please contact us by email to
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We seek to ensure that every item we sell,
wherever it is going, is shipped suitably protected against the risk of damage
in transit. Artworks such as paintings,
drawings and original antique engravings are always shipped flat, inside
acid-free bags within tough all-board envelopes, and with extra internal
stiffening. Archival canvas prints, also
protected by acid-free bags, may be sent rolled-up in stout, sealed cardboard
Terence Kerr Images is confident you will be
delighted with your purchase. However,
if you are not satisfied for any reason and you return any item to us within 14
days of delivery, in the same condition in which it was supplied, we will
refund the purchase price (which includes outward shipping) in full. This offer excludes any return postage and
packaging costs that you may incur.
This item has been shown times.
Garden By The Sea (helen Fisher C.1885) Original Watercolour By Victorian Child: $103