Forward London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Portraits: British 20th C 50 Could you help us to learn more about the artist Laura Margaret Fisher?

Mrs C. H. Bailey, CBE, JP
Topic: Artist

L. M. Fisher I believe to be Laura Margaret Fisher, who, in 1892 as a student at the Clapham School of Art was awarded the Mulready Prize by the Society of Arts as well as a Gold Medal.

During the 1920s she occupied 9, Trafalgar Studios on Manresa Road, Chelsea (source: Electoral Registers).

I have learned this whilst researching a portrait of an unknown sitter appearing in an auction catalogue as 'A Lady at her Writing Desk' (see attached). Signed 'L. M. Fisher.' there is a partial label verso, in handwriting, reading Laura Margaret Fisher'.

There is one reference to a work on ArtNet listed as
Laura Margaret Fisher
A Pretty Young Girl Fishing
25.4 x 20.3 cm (10 x 8 in)

The Bibliothèque nationale de France has the following microfilm:
69
Fisher, Laura Margaret (18..-19..)
Portraits de Laura Margaret Fisher, peintre anglaise,
(XIXe-XXe s.)
NE-63 (68)-FOL (p. 122)
Collection Laruelle
Microfilmé

I am not an ArtNet subscriber and I cannot access the microfilm. So far all attempts to obtain biographical details other than those cited above have failed and consequently I am hopeful that this posting may prompt a discussion that might lead to further information becoming available.

David Dalton-Leggett, Entry reviewed by Art UK

50 comments

Shaun Everett,

Could you add a Facebook and Twitter button to give wider coverage?

Bill Ellson,

Born 18 Jan 1872 Pas De Calais, France

1898 one of three illustrators who between them provided 12 coloured illustrations for a J.M. Dent edition of Dinah Craik's 'John Halifax, Gentleman'

1902 miniature 134th exhibition of the Royal Academy

1901 & 1911 censuses 272 Wightman Road, Hornsey N living with older brother Thomas, a surgeon

Sept 1939 34 St Anne's Road, Whitstable

Died Bournemouth 1960
-o-o-
Any idea who Mrs Bailey was?

Wendy Howard 01,

Still more fortunate has been Miss Laura Margaret Fisher,of Clapham, in winning, for her chalk drawings of figures from the nude, not only a gold medal,but the £2O scholarship. (from the newspaper)

Wendy Howard 01,

marriage took place at the parish church of St. Mary, Malpas, near Newport of Mr. James Nowell Bailey. second son of Mr C. H. Bailey, C.B.E. J.P. of Stelvio, Newport, and Millen, Crickhowell, From the Brecon County Times 1922

Wendy Howard 01,

Mrs. C. H. BAILEY. C.B.E, J.P Trustee of the Royal Gwent Hospital. From the Western Mail, Cardiff 1921

Wendy Howard 01,

The Baileys also lived at Millen, Crickhowell. Her own first name was Gertrude, but of course in those days women were known by the initials and surname of their husband.ounded in the 1880s, the company was incorporated in May 1923 as C.H. Bailey, Graham and Co. Just prior to the start of World War II, it became C.H. Bailey Ltd. Almost 50 years later, the company listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The founder and first chairman was Charles H. Bailey, who died in 1907 and was succeeded by his son, Group Captain George B. Bailey, who was responsible for starting dry dock operations in Malta in the 1950s. He was succeeded by his son, Christopher, who was the father of the present chairman.

Wendy Howard 01,

https://www.gliffaeshotel.com/offers/. This is a link to their house in Crickhowell, now a hotel. They must have been fabulously wealthy to own houses of this standard. (The name of the house is Gilffaes...not Millen as wrongly translated by the ocr translator in the Brecon County Times)

Kieran Owens,

A little more completely, as mentioned above Laura Margaret Fisher was born in Pas de Calais, France on the 18th January 1872.

In the 1881 UK Census, aged 9, she is recorded as living at 2, Golden Villa, Mallinson Road, Battersea, along with her 48-year-old widowed mother Eliza (who had been born at St. Ives (Hunts) in Cambridgeshire), as well as her sister Harriet Eliza Fisher (14) and her brother Thomas E. H. Fisher (12), both of whom had also been born in the same place in France.

The 1891 Census records Laura (19) as living at The Retreat, Eglantine Road, Wandsworth, London, together with her mother (60) and her sister Harriet (23).

In the 1901 UK Census, aged 29, her address was 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey, where she was sharing a home with her brother, now Doctor Thomas E. Fisher (32) and sister, Harriet E. Fisher (34), as well as her 11-year-old Surrey-born niece Dorothy Beddoe. By the 1911 Census, from the same Hornsey address, she (aged 39) is living with here brother Thomas (42, and a surgeon). Both are registered as “single”.

Between 1896 and 1940, as Miss L. M. Fisher, Laura is a reasonably regular contributor to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Between 1896 and 1908, all of here submissions are made from the Hornsey address. A break occurs at this latter date and when she resumes her attendance at the RA in 1917 it is from 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea. This remains her address until 1938. By the time of the taking of the 1939 Register, she had moved from Trafalgar Studios to 29, St. Anne’s Road, Tankerton-on-Sea, Whitstable, Kent.

With an address at 4, Berkley Mansions, Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Laura Margaret Fisher died at 2, Cromer Road, Queenspark, Bournemouth, aged 88, on the 11th April 1960. Probate was granted to Margaret Beddoe and her estate was valued at just under €13,830.

Below is a list of Laura Margaret Fisher’s submissions to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions

Etchings, Drawings & Engravings

1896 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
• 1536 - Spring

1901 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
1489 - Oranges & Lemons
1503 - “What O’Clock?”

1902 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
1294 - Iris
1309 - Idleness
1328 - The Necklace

1903 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
1369 - Day-dreams

1905 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
• 1325 - Rest
1357 - The Lark’s Song

1906 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
1347 - Roses

1907 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
1398 - The Butterfly

1908 - 272, Wightman Road, Hornsey
1500 - Rêverie

Oil Paintings

1917 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
The Rose-bowl

1918 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
522 - A Cinderella

1927 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
• 306 - The Answer

1934 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
1077 - Phoebe, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. A. E. Cannon

Miniatures

1935 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
• 1114 - Portrait of Mrs. A. H. Beddoe

1936 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
1048 - A Little Cinderella

1937 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
• Young April

1938 - 9, Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea
1041 - An Old Song

1940 - 32, St. Anne’s Road, Tankerton-on-Sea, Kent
1037 - Memories
1139 - Snow Pixie

_____________________________________________

Osmund Bullock,

Gertrude Mary Bailey née Buchanan, born Sunderland 25 Nov 1870. Eldest child of James and Mary Dinsdale Buchanan of Sunderland (and later Islington); he was secretary to a shipping company.

Gertrude married 20 March 1895 at St Paul's, Canonbury, Charles Henry Bailey (d 1907); they had seven children.

CBE (1918), JP; Médaille de la Reine Elisabeth of Belgium. See also https://bit.ly/3e60D5y and https://bit.ly/2ZpxhuL

In March 1938 Gertrude moved with a personal nurse/carer to Kenya, and died there (at Mombasa) 14 Nov 1941. It seems likely that she went to join other family members already settled there - in recent years the family company, CH Bailey Ltd, has been very active in East African property development.

The house, now hotel, that the Baileys lived in from 1919-27 is called Gliffaes, rather than Gilffaes. I know it well - it's lovely, and the setting overlooking a sweeping bend in the River Usk even more so.

The portrait shows her with her CBE proudly displayed - I imagine it was painted in celebration of its award, i.e. circa 1918.

Wendy Howard 01,

The father was Thomas Elcome Fisher and mother Eliza Underwood, married 1860 in The Strand. He died in 1879 at Pont de Briques in France. Both he and Eliza came from St. Ives in Huntingdonshire. His Estate was valued at under £600. It's been difficult to find the occupation of this Thomas, but his father was an attorney at law in St. Ives, Huntingdonshire.

Wendy Howard 01,

(Just to add to this, it looks likely that Thomas Fisher, Laura's father, was also an attorney at law as there are Articles of Clerkship for Thomas the younger in 1837, describing his father as one of the attorneys of the Queen's Bench. There are many spellings for the middle name..Escombe, Elcome...probably depending on the clarity of the original handwriting.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Norris Museum in St Ives might have further information on the Fisher family given that Thomas was a person of some status in this small Huntingdonshire town

Thanks Wendy, that will be fine for the moment. Draft summary attached: unless anyone can provide further rapid and accurate addition/ correction, I think I can put on my temporary British 20th c. portraits hat and suggest this winds up, with many thanks for such a rapid an satisfactory outcome all round.

Some may have notice that a 'sharp remark' made late last night was removed by Art UK this morning as against the Code of Conduct for this site (see link below). Its also worth noting the other 'rules' on the list which help avoid prompting them.

https://www.artuk.org/artdetective/about/code-of-conduct

Entirely 'obiter dictum', given that the Bailey firm still appears to flourish from Newport, my personal suggestion to Newport Museum and Art Gallery would be to see if - sometime post-current-crisis - it would sponsor the conservation work that this portrait of the distinguished Mrs Bailey needs. I think she'd 'clean up' rather well and in an age seeking female business role models she sounds like something of a pioneer for her time.

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David Dalton-Leggett,

All contributors to this discussion please accept my heartfelt thanks for their invaluable input.
It has been a long time since I posted the original query and I had all but given up on there being any feedback. I now have a veritable deluge of highly detailed and valuable information.
Thanks to you all!

Can I presume upon you further and invite any thoughts about the identity of the sitter?

Here is my current line of inquiry:

The Royal Academy exhibition catalogue of 1906 shows Laura M. Fisher (entry no. 1347 Roses) exhibiting alongside Violet (Marchioness of) Granby (entry no 1345 The Rt. Hon. R.B. Haldane, K.C., M.P.). This would indicate that it is highly possible that the two artists would have met.

In the portrait marble bust of The Marchioness of Granby (1902) by George Frampton RA there are depicted what are described as ‘exotic peacock brooches’ (see photographs), a symbol adopted by the Marchioness.

There is an interesting exact correlation between the peacock motif depicted on these brooches incorporated into the bust and the motif located centrally on the waistband of the sitter in Laura Fisher’s portrait. Another interesting (speculative) correlation is the motif of violets which adorn the sitter’s dress, since the Marchioness of Granby was known as ‘Violet’. The sitter in Laura Fisher’s work is shown sitting at a writing desk which may be an allusion to writing aspirations but this again is pure speculation.

Clearly the portrait cannot be of the Marchioness of Granby herself because she would have been in her late forties/early fifties at the time the portrait would have been painted. However, her eldest daughter, Victoria Marjorie Harriet Paget (née Manners), Marchioness of Anglesey (1883-1946), writer and artist, would have been in her early twenties at this time.

Attached are comparative images of the sitter’s face in the Fisher portrait and a 1906 photograph of Victoria Harriet Manners. There is certainly a very credible likeness with a strong similarity of features.


Thank you!

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

If asking for information for a personal auction purchase, it is probably a presumption too far. This forum is supposed to be for items in the ArtUK database. Perhaps you should approach a professional researcher.

David - Kieran anticipates me to the same effect I'm afraid, since there is another rule on the 'What is Art Detective?' page which says

'Please note that we do not answer enquiries about art in private ownership, although privately owned art may be included in our online discussions if strictly relevant to the topic under discussion (e.g. another version by the artist).'

I'm not sure where your 'seated lady' is, but it's not on Art UK as in broadly public institutional hands. So, to best of my understanding of the house rules, it can't be the subject of ongoing identification discussion here, though it's certainly relevant to have seen it as another (good) example of Fisher's work.

If you haven't yet enquired what may be in the Heinz Library (NPG) on Victoria Manners, later Paget, which might broaden your basis for comparison that might be something to do when possible.

Jacinto Regalado,

Excellent idea about the sorely needed restoration, Pieter. I think the work is good enough to merit that, and the requisite funding should be obtainable as per your suggestion.

Its a big/ expensive job: 7-foot full length, presumably from the family mansion, and as Osmund has indicated almost certainly painted when she got her CBE -presumably wearing the dress shown and perhaps in the Trafalgar Studios from the plain board floor.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Pieter, but corporate funding is rather different from the collection's budget for such matters. I expect that, if the proposal or request is properly presented, the Bailey firm will cooperate.

Martin Hopkinson,

Horace Brodzky had a studio a 9 Trafalgar Studios in 1911

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a novel about the studios - Morley Rioberts, The private life of Henry Richards, Eveleigh Nash, 1912 [ the novelist George Gissing is fictionalised in it]

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, one would hope that Newport would be keen on celebrating her as the remarkable female pioneer she was in business and many other fields. However...if the Women in War (Wales) website (https://bit.ly/3e60D5y) is right to say she was or had been against women's suffrage, that may be considered an insurmountable problem.

Pieter's link to the Code of Conduct reminded me of the requirement for evidence and basic references (which my post above wholly lacked). I can probably summarize most of those in future as 'the usual online sources'; but to clarify once here, all info given in the sitter's biog is from online images & transcriptions of parish records, census returns, probate registers and passenger lists (at well-known subscription websites), with further details from the two links given, plus Who's Who, and the websites of Gliffaes Hotel and the C H Bailey Group (as per Wendy & Pieter).

A more thorough search of passenger records suggests that Gertrude Bailey had moved to East Africa as early as 1935. And there was indeed an ongoing family link there - in the 1970s two of her children also died in Kenya, and one of them, her younger daughter Elizabeth, had married there in the early 1950s.

Gregory Burgess,

An additional snippet from Ancestry.com for which I only have limited access. L.M.Fisher's sister Harriet Eliza Fisher died at Bridge nr Canterbury, Kent in March 1949.

Thanks for the 'snippet'.

My view on citations here is that 'usual online sources' don't need to be detailed as regards the basics of birth, marriage and death available through Ancestry etc, though it helps to know (in a general way) if facts come out of things like census returns and electoral registers, and the year, since that alone allows them to be re-found without difficulty. The same applies to standard compilation 'dictionary' works like Graves RA exhibitors list, ODNB and so on. Newspaper and other periodical sources names and dates need to be explicit, along with anything else not readily found (or to which not everyone may have subscription access) -or if found as a PDF-type open-access version at least with a link that allows the original to be retrieved and 'scholarly citation' data (title, author, date, page etc) to be extracted.

David Dalton-Leggett,

My sincere appologies for stepping out of line. This has been my first forray into serious art research and my enthusiasm for my subject got the better of me.

I can say that I concur wholeheartedly with sentiments expressed regarding the Bailey portrait. I made an appointment to see it last year (it is in storage) The gallery curator kindly took me into the store and I was able to examine it by torchlight. She shared my sadness over its somewhat dowdy current condition but as has been noted, the cost of restoration is prohibitive given the lack of funding available.

No apology necessary: venturing into this forum (or probably any similar) is a trial and error business. Its much better to the questions and not be put off doing so by worrying about the'form': if that is off track it will be steered back that way.
Well done for seeing the original picture: it sounds like it needs a bit of enterprise and lateral thinking: its doing no good as it is, though its current condition is shared by a lot of pictures of that size, including by more significant artists. They tend to end up on the back racks in picture stores as 'low priority'.

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, I expect the only likely rescue for this picture is a corporate one with a family interest in the matter. Otherwise, it is bound to remain low priority--too expensive a project for a barely known artist.

David Dalton-Leggett,

Many thanks to all who kindly contributed to this thread. I greatly value your erudite comments, which have proved invaluable.
I have learnt much!

Whaley Turco,

That Lady Can Paint. That's a beautiful portrait in need of some TLC and everything else I've been reading is utter nonsense.

I think this can now wrap up but before it does I would be grateful to Wendy Howard for the source of her note of 22/05/2020 reading:

'Still more fortunate has been Miss Laura Margaret Fisher,of Clapham, in winning, for her chalk drawings of figures from the nude, not only a gold medal,but the £2O scholarship. (from the newspaper)'

I.e., which paper and its date: ideally it would be good to see the clipping if that's possible including (if she can't supply) from someone who can once the details are given.

Kieran Owens,

Mr. Turco, your rather unkind and extremely unfair dismissal of a serious collective effort to tease out the truth that lies behind this and, by extension, other problematic artworks, by many well-informed and certainly well-meaning contributors to ArtUK, crosses a line of respect that is deeply saddening. Perhaps before posting such personalised comments you should carefully read the clearly defined rules for participating in these discussions.

Kieran Owens,

Pieter, my apologies if my comments are also too personalised. Please feel free to delete them if you feel it appropriate to do so.

Kieran Owens,

The 'Still more fortunate has been Miss Laura Margaret Fisher,of Clapham, in winning, for her chalk drawings of figures from the nude, not only a gold medal,but the £2O scholarship.' quote was published in a number of newspapers, the first entry of which appeared on Friday 5th August 1892, where it could be found in the Kent & Sussex Courier, the East Anglian Daily Times and the Kilburn Times. On subsequent days the same notice appeared in a dozen or more additional titles.

Interestingly, 'The Queen' publication, of Saturday 3rd September 1892, carried a slightly more detailed version, which is attached.

It is time this discussion ended: the general rules have been pointed out once already at

https://www.artuk.org/artdetective/about/code-of-conduct

The first and seventh on the list should be especially noted in the present instance and also the first part of the ninth, which says
'Respect the decisions of group leaders'. Currently that's me (acting pp Kate Eustace at Art UK request) and I would like this matter to close without any further ill-judged exchanges.

Kieran Owens,

Noted and, once again, apologies.

Gregory Burgess,

To Mr Owens - well done on providing such insight into this obscure but worthwhile subject. Your contributions are always read here.

My apologies, Kieran, for not spotting before that you had posted the 1892 newspaper references, including one even more informative from 'The Queen': that means this can now definitely wrap up without bothering Wendy Howard further on her earlier reference to the matter, but thanks to both (and all).

Here is an amended 'artist biography' summary from the discussion. I think - correcting earlier assumption- Laura's mother must have been still alive but not present at the 1901 census: none of the shildren could have had nieces since all single. If anyone has a death date for her or her son Dr Thos. Fisher that would dot an i and cross a t.

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Mark Wilson 01,

Pieter, the nieces puzzled me as well, but could there have been an elder sister, perhaps born around 1861 who was already married (presumably to Mr Beddoe) and had left the household by 1881? There could be other possibilities for her absence, such as study or being abroad. That might explain the mother's absence in 1901 as well - helping at her daughter's while her other children looked after their niece.

Kieran Owens,

As you can see from the above, her father's name is given as Thomas Escolme Fisher. The son of Thomas Escolme Fisher (1781 - St. Ives (Hunts), 10th May 1851), Attorney-at-Law, and his second wife Ann Child (1793 - Writtle, Essex, 15th October 1864) (his first wife Elizabeth having died in 1818, aged 36), he was born in St. Ives (Hunts) on the 1st December 1822, and was baptised there on the 13th July 1827. He died in France on the 7th November 1879, aged 56.

Thomas's son (Laura's brother) was Dr. Thomas Escolme Hervarre Fisher, MRCS; LRCP (London, 1890), who was born in France c. 1869 and died at Whittington Hospital, Highgate, Middlesex, from his address at 4, Homewood, 75, Anson Road, Holloway, London, on the 20th May 1956.

The quest for the death date of Eliza Fisher (née Underwood) continues.

Thanks both - I cant get a censuses etc at present to look at the 'niece' business but Miss L.M. Fisher certainly seems to have shown early promise. I think we'll still let Marion close this one when she has touched base with the collection rather than delay further, but I'll liase with her about posting a final draft with this new information and anything else spliced in when she does that: if anything else appears later it can be added into the file copy and at some stage all these ' potted lives' will became more generally available: easier than ploughing back through discussions unless you really need to. There are now exactly 40 solely generated from them.

Kieran Owens,

As for the niece, Dorothy Helena Beddoe was born in East Molesey, Surrey in 1890 and died at Bournemouth, Hampshire, on the 26th May 1965. She was the daughter of Adelaide Helen Fisher (Cambridge, 9th April 1957 - 1946), Laura's elder half-sister.

Kieran Owens,

The last of my attachments above (25/05/2020), regarding the distribution of prizes to Laura, confirms that her father was a solicitor.

Kieran Owens,

Oops....the above "(Cambridge, 9th April 1957 - 1946), Laura's elder half-sister." should read (Cambridge, 9th April 1857 - 1946), Laura's elder half-sister."

While we wait for this to get closure clearance, albeit mainly tangential....

It appears that Laura's father Thomas Escolme Fisher (1822-79) first married a Virginia East (b. 1820, d. ???), apparently in June 1841, by whom one daughter Isabella East Fisher (though also given as Isabella Fisher East), born in 1843, is noted on this open-access Geni page:

https://www.geni.com/people/Thomas-Fisher/6000000090463497164

No mention there of her sister Adelaide Helen, but perhaps just an omission of later children since the first Mrs Fisher clearly died between her birth in 1857 and T.E.Fisher's remarriage in 1859.

There is also a 'London Gazette' notice that indicates T.E.F. was also involved in 1858 in what looks like the founding of the 'St Ives, Hunts, and Cambridgeshire Gazette and General Advertiser' (i.e. a local paper): top right on this page

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/22168/page/3574/data.pdf

The French connections are also curious, unless through Laura's mother -despite her very English name (Elizabeth Underwwood, also of St Ives)- on two or possibly three grounds:

(1) For one child to be born in St Omer (or thereabouts) might be chance but all three, and T.E.F dying in the same area looks like 'system' -even if only being Francophile and with a second property there: or perhaps he had made sufficient money by the late 1860s to retreat entirely to a life of modest French comfort. (If the latter case, then memory of him and his Cambridge connection in relation to Laura's artistic success nearly 25 years after his death still seems rather green.)

(2) Why should the Bibliotheque Nationale have a record, of any sort, of portraits by Laura from a French source? Perhaps she also had personal French connections -inc. an exhibition record or portraiture clientele there - that we have not yet spotted.

(3) More tenuous, but the Fishers fairly clearly (from the Geni link) went in for unusual first names, so where did Dr Thomas Escolme Hervarre Fisher's third one come from? It might just be of French connection.

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