Rowland Fisher’s ‘Drifters‘ (oil on canvas) GRYEH : 1968.403
There were so many paintings to choose from both on display and in our collection stores that could have been selected for this month’s object of the month, but one in particular on display in our fishing galleries stands out each time I pass by.
The Great Yarmouth Museums collection in home to man different maritime artworks, and this piece by the artist Roland Fisher examples just one painting that depicts the fishing industry during the 19th and 20th centuries. Infused with life, this oil painting showcases Great Yarmouth through the fine art genre and the stereotypes associated with paintings including dramatic skies and detailed subject matter.
Rowland Fisher was born in Gorleston in 1885 and stayed there until his death in 1969; which brings one to question to mind – what it was about the area that kept him here? It’s a common factor with many artists born in Norfolk, that these individuals never saw the need to travel or move away to create artworks, for there is beautiful landscapes and seascapes all around our county. Fisher had a fascination for seascapes and this is what he showcases so well in his work. In the painting ‘Drifters‘, we can see how his lifelong love for ships influenced his style and therefore his paintings act as a platform for showcasing life at sea not just for the ships, but for the fishermen and sailors that worked on and sailed them.
In ‘Drifters’, the balance between beautiful seascape and intriguing social history is met as the viewer studies the sky, sea and boat in the foreground. Depicting a typical fishing vessel, the crew are at work with their nets and we can see that they have been successful in securing a catch. Often works of the sea and Yarmouth in particular, feature deep dark skye admits a storm, however this painting is quite the opposite as the viewer is invited to stand on deck with the crew as they complete their daily duties. Even the perfectly formed line of seagulls to the right of the boat are communicating a feeling of serenity at sea (as opposed to chaos). Positioned behind a crew member, the viewer’s gaze falls naturally over his shoulders and out into the distance to where his focus is also fixed – the sea and the other two boats on the water. Minimal feeling of distress, this painting is full of life and colour.
Fisher was known to have sat for many hours in his house overlooking the harbour as he watched the waves, skies and gulls. Therefore this painting could almost be a relocation of his dreams as he looked out to sea, imagining a day on the water as a fisherman and part of the crew. After all, Fisher originally did want to go to sea, but was instead apprenticed to a timber yard where he worked for fifty years whilst painting in his spare time. Whether it be a reflection of his observations or a dream, ‘Drifters‘ is evidence of Fisher’s love for maritime painting and the local landscape around him – a landscape that will be the highlight of our summer exhibition next year in 2018, as we showcase the beautiful Yarmouth as captured by artists such as Rowland Fisher.
For more of Rowland Fisher’s artworks see the collection on Art UK website