The Copenhageners’ Painter
Paul Gustav Fischer – frequently named Paul Gustave Fischer – (July 22, 1860 – January 5, 1934) was a Danish painter, who belonged to the fourth generation of the Fischer family to live in Denmark. The family – originally coming from Poland – was upper middle class. Paul’s father had started as a painter, but later succeeded in the business of manufacturing paints and lacquers.
Paul Fischer learned the craft from the ground up being an assistant in his father’s painting materials business.
Paul Fischer studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen 1876-78 but he did not complete the studies. This threatened to block his career as an artist until he sold a drawing to a Danish magazine (Ude og Hjemme) in 1882.
Fischer then became influenced by the contemporary trends in French intellectual life and the circle of young Danish naturalists. He was appointed to illustrate the Danish author Georg Brandes’ work Berlin as German Reich Capital, which was published as booklets 1884-85. Afterwards more magazines presented his drawings, and his paintings were exhibited at Charlottenborg 1884-1902.
The early drawings show city life, and it was indeed as street life painter he established himself in the public consciousness.
Paul Fischer stayed in two periods in the 1890s in “the artists’ town” Paris, and was so glad for the French that he changed his first name Danish Poul with the more French-sounding Paul.
In the beginning the scenes were set in overcast or winter weather, but after his Paris trip the colours were warmer.
Paul Fischer painted motifs from Queen Louise Bridge with views towards Ferdinand Meldahl’s two symmetrical palatial apartment buildings on Søtorvet – being some of the most French-influenced architecture in Copenhagen. Moreover, it was easy for him to compare the lakes on either side of the bridge with his beloved river Seine in Paris.
Especially famous are the colorful paintings of the “Parisian” commercial life on Højbro Plads in Copenhagen. These paintings were highly appreciated.
At that time Fischer became what he is particularly remembered as: The Copenhageners’ and especially the female Copenhageners’ painter.
It was not long before Fischer gained fame as a painter of cities, not just Copenhagen, but scenes from Scandinavia, Italy and Germany, reaching his zenith between 1890 and 1910.
In that period he was inspired by contemporary, internationally known painters in Norway and Sweden, especially Carl Larsson, and he created a series of paintings with bright, sunny bathing scenes and nudes.
The high demand for his paintings made him financially independent, but also meant that his output became uneven.
Fisher’s unfaltering mastery of the pictorial technique unfolded later in the paintings of Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen in a muted gray scale with effective accents in red and blue.
In addition to Fischer’s large production of paintings, he published a series of illustrated books. Especially noteworthy are “Artist Portraits” and the endearing book for children “The Alphabet” – both from 1893.
At the same time Fischer began drawing posters. They are, as his production as a whole, stylistically very different, but in some of them the inspiration from the great French poster artists A. Th. Steinlein and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is clearly visible.
The tremendous productivity that characterizes Paul Fischer is accentuated further by his several thousand photographic pictures, which are preserved. Mostly they have been preliminary studies for paintings, but he also experimented with portraits and other motifs.
During the period when he actively painted, Danish art was dominated by Laurits Tuxen. Despite Fischer’s lack of critical recognition during his lifetime, his art sold well.
One major event, in which he succeeded over Tuxen, was when Sweden transferred the sovereignty of Norway back to the Norwegians: Fischer rather than Tuxen got the commission from the King of Norway to paint the event.
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