Rocking The Cradle C.1885: Original Art By Victorian Child, May Chatteris Fisher
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Rocking The Cradle C.1885: Original Art By Victorian Child, May Chatteris Fisher:
offers are invited for this rare surviving example of a painting by a child growing up in England in the late Victorian era. The unframed watercolour on paper, signed in pencil on the back, was probably painted in or around 1885, when its young creator,
May Chatteris Fisher,
would have been 10 or 11 years old.
The two older girls in this picture could be May’s sisters, Margaret and Helen. She often included either two or three little girls in her childhood paintings and drawings – although she usually depicting them playing in or around the Fisher family home in a suburb of Manchester, rather than performing domestic tasks such as doing the laundry.
As an adult, May became a professional artist, designer of bookplates and illustrator of children’s books.
This original artwork has remained in the ownership of May’s descendants ever since her death in 1910 and has never previously been offered for sale.
10.5” / 267mm wide
7.44” / 189mm high
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May was born, the second 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.
May’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 in 1874 and the youngest girl, 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.
May showed artistic promise at a very early age, producing many charming and imaginative paintings and drawings that have survived the 104 years since her death as rare examples of original art by a Victorian child.
As 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. May’s sisters both married in 1906, Margaret Fisher in Kendal and Helen Fisher in Manchester.
William and May both died suddenly in 1910 and Arthur was then brought up by relatives. This watercolour 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 May Chatteris Fisher and Helen 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.
This original late 19th century watercolour is in very good overall condition, despite the fact it lay for several decades amidst other unframed artworks in an attic. Fortunately, all but the extreme right edge was completely shielded from dust & dirt by the sheets above it in the pile. As our scans show, although the lower right corner has sustained some damage & a thin strip of grime did accumulate up the right edge, the rest of the painting is relatively clean & the watercolours are still bright. There is also no evidence of ‘foxing’, the brown spotting which spoils so many painted & printed artworks of this vintage. The painting could be mounted & framed successfully using acid-free materials, albeit with the loss of the young artist’s signature on the back. The dirty & damaged right edge could either be sliced off completely or masked by the right edge of the picture mount ‘window’.
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