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An essay by George Augustus Moore

Mr. Mark Fisher

Title:     Mr. Mark Fisher
Author: George Augustus Moore [More Titles by Moore]

Mark Fisher is a nineteenth-century Morland; the disposition of mind and character of vision seem the same in both painters, the outlook almost identical: the same affectionate interest in humble life, the same power of apprehending the pathos of work, the same sympathy for the life that thinks not. But beyond these qualities of mind common to both painters, Morland possessed a sense of beauty and grace which is absent in Mark Fisher. Morland's pig-styes are more beautifully seen than Mark Fisher could see them. But is the sense of beauty, which was most certainly Morland's, so inherent and independent a possession that we must regard it as his rather than the common inheritance of those who lived in his time? Surely Mark Fisher would have seen more beautifully if he had lived in the eighteenth century? Or, to put the case more clearly, surely Morland would have seen very much as Mark Fisher sees if he had lived in the nineteenth? Think of the work done by Morland in the field and farmyard--it is in that work that he lives; compare it with Mark Fisher's, subtracting, of course, all that Morland owed to his time, quality of paint, and a certain easy sense of beauty, and say if you can that both men do not stand on the same intellectual plane.

To tell the story of the life of the fields, and to tell it sincerely, without false sentiment, was their desire; nor do we detect in either Morland or Mark Fisher any pretence of seeing more in their subjects than is natural for them to see: in Jacques, yes. Jacques tried to think profoundly, like Millet; Mark Fisher does not; nor was Morland influenced by the caustic mind of Hogarth to satirise the animalism of the boors he painted. He saw rural life with the same kindly eyes as Mark Fisher. The difference between the two men is a difference of means, of expression--I mean the exterior envelope in which the work of the mind lives, and which preserves and assures a long life to the painter. On this point no comparison is possible between the eighteenth and nineteenth century painter. We should seek in vain in Mark Fisher for Morland's beautiful smooth painting, for his fluent and easy drawing, the complete and easy vehicle of his vision of things. Mark Fisher draws well, but he often draws awkwardly; he possesses the sentiment of proportion and the instinct of anatomy; we admire the sincerity and we recognise the truth, but we miss the charm of that easy and perfect expression which was current in Morland's time. Mark Fisher is a man who has something to say and who says it in a somewhat barbarous manner. He dreams hardly at all, his thoughts are ordinary, and are only saved from commonplace by his absence of affectation. He is not without sentiment, but his sentiment is a little plain. His hand is his worst enemy; the touch is seldom interesting or beautiful.

I said that Morland saw nature with the same kindly eyes as Mark Fisher. I would have another word on that point. Mark Fisher's painting is optimistic. His skies are blue, his sunlight dozes in the orchard, his chestnut trees are in bloom. The melodrama of nature never appears in his pictures; his lanes and fields reflect a gentle mind that has found happiness in observing the changes of the seasons. Happy Mark Fisher! An admirable painter, the best, the only landscape-painter of our time; the one who continues the tradition of Potter and Morland, and lives for his art, uninfluenced by the clamour of cliques.

[The end]
George Moore's essay: Mr. Mark Fisher