JAMES P. FISHER
In his early school years, Jim
Fisher was more truant than student. He was often preoccupied
with drawing animals and birds, or sketching his classmates
than completing his academic assignments. He was given to
playing hockey and roaming the Brandywine Valley, armed with
pencil, paper and public library books about natural history.
It was there by the Brandywine that his interest in wildlife
art took form.
James P. Fisher was born in Wilmington,
Delaware, on February 25, 1912, the last of three children
of Walter F. Fisher and Anna Briggs Fisher. His mother was
gently tolerant of her youngest child's non-conforming ways
because she shared his interest in art. He credits much of
his artistic success to her encouragement during his early
At the age of 17, Jim enrolled
for the fall semester at The Wilmington Academy of Art (now
Delaware Art Center). At the same time he took on his first
full time job, a clerk in a drugstore, to pay his tuition
and purchase art supplies. He studied under Gayle P. Hoskins,
Frank E. Schoonover and N. C. Wyeth who were already nationally-known
While attending the Academy he
undertook the ambitious task of copying each of the plates
from Ernest Seton Thompson's Art Anatomy of Animals. The book
was out of print and available only at the public library,
so he kept his drawings in a ring hinder. The intensive study
required to complete the work impressed anatomical knowledge
indelibly in his mind and also helped him develop drawing
The depression of the thirties
arrived in full force, and after three years at the Academy,
Jim realized that, "If I were to eat, I had better transform
my talents into some saleable form." M. A. Mayes, a Bostonian,
taught him theater lobby art, full sheet posters that featured
a portrait of the star and listed the usual credits for the
supporting cast, director, producer, etc. He earned his living
at this until the advent of silk screen process which made
handcrafted posters a lost art form.
During the depression years he
took on any job that would produce income. For a time he painted
portraits, a natural fallout from his lobby art days. After
that, he did a long series of commissions for pet portraits.
When the workload was light, which was quite often those days,
Jim used his time to roam the tidal marshes of the Delaware
and Christiana Rivers and made frequent trips to the coastal
salt marshes of New Jersey to sketch and observe the wildlife
in its natural habitat.
In 1939 he married Irene Green,
a registered nurse, and they moved to a small farm in Chester
County, Pa. Here he had the opportunity to pursue his life-long
interest in wildlife. The Pennsylvania countryside teemed
with native birds and animals and in addition Jim raised quail,
pheasants and puddle ducks for use as models. Commercial advertising
art, however, continued to take up most of his time.
In 1950 their only son, Jim,,
Jr., was born. He is now a professional photographer whose
skills come in quite handy to his father when doing research
for a painting.
An old, two-story granary on
the farm was converted to a studio and is an object d'art
in itself. The beamed ceiling and stone hearth are effective
background for Jim's props. His collection of decoys, each
with a history of its own, and mounted wild fowl of every
description make up the decor.