Fisher, Jonathan (fl. 1763–1809), painter, was established as a linen draper in the Liberties area of Dublin where he was practising as an artist by 1763. Though Strickland says he may have received some training in London, no further evidence has come to light to support this. It seems likely, as contemporary sources suggest, that he was self-taught. The earliest record of his activity as an artist comes with his winning of a Dublin Society premium for landscape painting in 1763. In 1768 he was awarded a further premium for ‘the best original landscape painted in oil colours’. He exhibited at the first exhibition of the Society of Artists in 1765 from an address at Dame St., Dublin. Soon afterwards he moved to Great Ship St., where he lived for the greater part of his life and from where he regularly submitted work to the Society of Artists exhibitions.
Fisher is best known for his sets of paintings of scenic views, and for the engravings of them that he published. His first series of six views of Killarney appeared in 1770. Two of the oil paintings for this series are now in the NGI. Two sketchbooks in the NLI are now attributed to Fisher, the drawings they contain having been identified as preparatory work for this set of views and for a set of views of Carlingford Lough published in London in 1772. One of the paintings for the latter series is now in the Ulster Museum. In the same year he published a set of four small views of the cities of Belfast, Cork, Kilkenny, and Waterford. Fisher himself engraved a set of twenty views, entitled ‘A picturesque tour of Killarney’ (Dublin, 1789), with two further editions appearing in Dublin (1790) and London (1791). This second set of views of Killarney was dedicated to his patron John, earl of Portarlington, himself an amateur artist and antiquarian. Portarlington was also a close friend of Fisher, and it was through him that Fisher became supervisor of stamps in the stamp office at Eustace St., Dublin, in 1778. In 1792 he embarked on a series of sixty views, published in 1795 under the title Scenery of Ireland illustrated in a series of prints of select views, castles and abbies, drawn and engraved in aquatint. In the preface, he claimed that this series was ‘the first of its kind ever executed in this kingdom’. As with his earlier work these views, which included the waterfall at Powerscourt and the lake and monastic site at Glendalough, were intended to appeal to the growing interest of the eighteenth-century tourist in picturesque scenes of particular natural beauty or antiquarian interest.
Fisher achieved recognition in his day as a leading landscape painter and his reputation as the leading topographical landscapist of the period has endured. Writing in 1781, the architect James Gandon (qv) cited Fisher as one of the notable painters then working in Ireland. In 1783 he was invited by the Dublin Society to serve as a member of a sub-committee, which included William Ashford (qv), to assess the quality of a new type of watercolour paints. The society also acquired one set of his Views of Killarney and three sets of his Scenery of Ireland for use in its drawing schools.
Fisher died in Dublin in 1809; his will was proved on 8 December 1809. Strickland records he had married a ‘Miss Price, a handsome, clever and fine-looking woman’. At his death his art collection, which consisted of sixty-five works, was sold in Dublin. It included works by Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807), the landscape painters Richard Wilson (1713/14–1782) and George Barret (qv), a landscape by Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88) and works by Italian and Dutch artists.