Alexander Fisher Research

  1. Silversmith
  2. British
  3. Arts and Crafts Movement
  4. Enamel paintings
  5. Influenced JRR Tolikien
  6. Inspired by paintings of The Garden of Hesperides by Edward Burne-Jones and Lord Leighton
  7. Warm color palette
  8. Taught at LCC Central School of Arts and Crafts
  9. Leading innovator in art enameling
  10. Studied at Paris


What makes Fisher such a great enamel?

The fact that all his artwork was made as fine art pieces.


Alexander Fisher, silversmith, was a leading artist working with enamels. He taught at the LCC Central School of Arts and Crafts from 1896-1898 and later at other London Schools. He also had several private pupils. In the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he advocated that every artwork should express a particular idea and should be designed and worked through all its stages by one person.

Fisher made specimen pieces demonstrating his mastery of various techniques. These included a large silver and plique-a-jour tazza with pierced-out openwork, a series of profile portraits following the traditional Limoges style, and a few large scale enamel paintings as fire-screens. The colourful composition entitled The Wagner Girdle (1896) with steel links and painted plaques showing scenes from the opera Tristan and Isolde, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum Jewellery Gallery, demonstrated his skill in making small scale figural pieces. His plaques generally measured up to 18 cm x 10 cm (7 in x 4 in) and were of silver, or copper covered partly with silver or gold foil. His figural compositions are extremely graceful and romantic in choice of colours, with blue, green and purple predominating, and with soft pink or white opalescent enamels representing the faces and flesh areas. His works in this genre were designed as pieces of fine art. He considered the considerable output of the many trade enamellers working at this period as being frivolous and lacking in individuality.

Source: Dictionary of Enamelling, History and Techniques

The Volsunga Saga deeply influenced J. R. R. TOLKIEN’S writing. In particular, the sword that was reforged, rings of power, the dragon on the hoard, and the creature Gollum

When the young J. R. R. TOLKIEN won the Skeat Prize for English in the Spring of 1914, he used the proceeds to purchase editions of William Morris’s books including his translation of the Volsunga Saga.


Fisher trained as a painter but became interested in enamelling and went to study its technique in Paris. Returning to England in 1887 he set up a studio making jewellery and objects decorated with figures in a late Pre-Raphaelite style. He published and lectured or enamelling and was responsible for the revival of the ‘Limoges’ technique. He taught for a while at the Central School of Arts & Crafts but in 1904, set up his own school in Kensington. His work was often published in the Studio Magazine and the Art Journal and shown at many international exhibitions, at the Royai Academy and the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. His embroidery designs were executed by his wife and by The Royal School of Art Needlework.


Alexander Fisher was the key figure in the revival of enamelling in Britain in the late nineteenth century. This work stands out as his most ambitious and important work due to the size, shape and brilliant colour of the enamels. Fisher appears to have been inspired by paintings of the Garden of Hesperides by Edward Burne-Jones and Lord Leighton. The overmantel was commissioned or bought by Arthur James Balfour, who became Prime Minister in 1902, and was installed in the dining room of his great mansion at Whittingehame in East Lothian. The overmantel enriches the collection of Edinburgh-made and locally-related enamels in the National Museums of Scotland as well as linking to other works from the Arts and Crafts movement.


The indigenous peoples of the Americas did not produce objects as works of art. In their eyes all pieces were utilitarian objects, adorned in ways necessary for their indeed purpose. A work was valued for their intended purposes. A work was valued for its effectiveness and for the role it played in society. And as with art in all cultures, many pieces have had great spiritual or magical power. Such works of art cannot be fully comprehended or appreciated when they are seen only on pedestals or encased in glass boxes in museums or galleries. They must be imagined, or better yet seen as acting in their societies.

At the beginning of the 20th century, European and American artists broke away from the academic bias that extolled the classical heritage of Greece and Rome. They found new inspiration in the art of craft. Artists explored a new freedom to use absolutely any material or technique that effectively challenged outmoded assumptions and opened the way for a free and unfettered delight.

The line between “art” and “craft” seems more artificial and less relevant than ever before.

Source: Art History, 3rd edition


1 Comment (+add yours?)

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    Oct 18, 2012 @ 05:12:33

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