Painting

Feature: Bill Fischer

 "Marketplace" by Bill Fischer, oil on board, 1954. Courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Marketplace" by Bill Fischer, oil on board, 1954. Courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

Louisville Visual Art (LVA) and the Community Foundation of Louisville (CFL) have announced the Bill Fischer Award for Visual Artists from the Artist Bill Fischer Foundation for Working Artists at CFL. The Fischer Prize is designed to make a meaningful impact on the career of a visual artist residing in the Louisville Metro Area by providing support in the form of grants for the execution and exhibition of artwork and other efforts to foster a professional career as a visual artist. Submissions are now being accepted here. Deadline is October 9, 2017.

 "Cookie Scheckles" by Bill Fischer, lacquer on board, circa 1970. Courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Cookie Scheckles" by Bill Fischer, lacquer on board, circa 1970. Courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

Bill Fischer is 98 years old, and was an artist and collector his entire life, exerting no small influence on other artists through direct example and by endowing programs and scholarships through the University of Louisville’s Allen R. Hite Institute.

Fischer began painting at a young age, and displayed early work from when he was 14 years old in his home more than 70 years later. His professional gig was as an illustrator for the Courier-Journal in 1936, but left the job over a pay dispute. Although he was a successful business owner throughout his life, Fischer never stopped making art, never stopped pursuing opportunities to grow as an artist. One particular story places Fischer at an historic moment in Mexican Art History.

Stirling Dickinson (from Chicago) founded Escuela de Bellas Artes, which would become one of the most significant cultural centers in Mexico, in or about 1936. It was located in an old convent in San Miguel de Allende. After World War II, the school qualified for students on the G.I. Bill and therefore attracted a good many U.S. veterans interested in studying art. In 1948, Dickinson hired renowned Mexican social realist painter David Alfaro Sigueiros to teach. It was at this time that Bill Fischer and his wife moved to San Miguel and rented a furnished house. 

 Unfinished 1940s mural painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros, in Escuela de Bellas Artes, a cultural center in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.

Unfinished 1940s mural painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros, in Escuela de Bellas Artes, a cultural center in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.

Fischer, on the G.I. Bill, enrolled in Bellas Artes, working, along with a half a dozen other students, for almost a year with Sigueiros on an ambitious mural, doing mostly outline design. During 1949, the U.S. became convinced that, under Siqueiros, the art school had become infested with communists, (this was the height of the “Red Scare” and McCarthyism in the U.S.) and so the G.I. Bill accreditation was rescinded, and most of the students left. Dickinson and Siqueiros had an altercation, resulting in Siqueiros being knocked down a staircase and resigning, leaving the mural uncompleted. Fisher stayed on for a while longer, but then returned with his wife to Louisville, where he started his own business.

He continued to work as an artist, participating in the “Magnificent Mile” art exhibit in Chicago in the late 1950s and the “Interior Valley” exhibit at the Art Museum of Cincinnati. As his career developed he never restricted himself to any one style or medium. If you collected Fischer’s work, you are as likely to have a landscape as you are a cityscape, as likely to own a sculpture as a painting.

Fischer also completed public work including several murals for churches and synagogues. Most notably, he created the stained glass windows for the Keneseth Israel Synagogue on Taylorsville Road.

 
 

 2011 photo of Bill Fischer by John Nation for Louisville Magazine

2011 photo of Bill Fischer by John Nation for Louisville Magazine

 "Fiesta in the Rain N.D." by Bill Fischer, Lacquer on board. Courtesy of the Hite Art Institute

"Fiesta in the Rain N.D." by Bill Fischer, Lacquer on board. Courtesy of the Hite Art Institute

This Feature article was written by Keith Waits.
In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, www.Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.

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