Record 16: Portrait of Christopher Fry Fisher
Portrait of Christopher Fry Fisher by George Caleb Bingham CRS # 16
Copyright©2014 George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement
Fred R. Kline, M.A., Editor & Director, Independent Art Historian
Kline Art Research Associates 7 Ave. Vista Grande, Ste. B7 Santa Fe, NM 87508
Artist: George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811-1879
Title: PORTRAIT OF CHRISTOPHER FRY FISHER
Born Nov. 30, 1818 Norfolk, VA; Died May 23, 1861 Petersburg, VA
Christopher Fry Fisher was the fifth child and first son of Reuben Fisher and Mary Little Fisher. He was educated at Eton (England). Fisher married Sarah Virginia Hill in 1842; they had many children, only one of which (Mary Little Fisher, d. 1910) lived to maturity. He was a wealthy businessman and a widely respected citizen of Petersburg, VA.
In 1861, during the Civil War, Captain Fisher raised and commanded the local Confederate militia in Petersburg. In May of 1861, while on a march with his company of soldiers and on horseback, he suddenly took his own life. The reasons for his suicide were never determined and the mystery, which is documented in official reports, remains one of the most singular and little noticed occurrences of the Civil War.
"Funeral of Capt. Fisher" [As reported in the local Petersburg newspaper, May 1861]
"The solemn funeral ceremonies over the remains of this lamented gentleman were performed yesterday afternoon in the presence of such an assemblage as probably no event in the history of Petersburg has heretofore called together. If it has been possible, we believe the whole city would have been resent to testify their respect, such was the firm hold he had upon the affections of all. At 3 o’clock the stores throughout the city were closed, the various flags were hung at half mast, and the general theme was his honored name.
The first Baptist Church was early filled to its utmost capacity, and many hundreds were unable to gain admittance. Washington Street for some distance on each side of the church was filled with carriages, and large numbers of persons lined the street for hundreds of yards, awaiting patiently the moving of the solemn cortege. The Rev. Mr. Keen delivered a discourse, eloquent, feeling and appropriate—sketching in truthful terms the beautiful Christian character the deceased had always borne—the simple, childish faith he had always placed in his God—his benevolence, his hope, his charity. The vast congregation were frequently affected to tears.
We have never witnessed a funeral procession so lengthy, so mournful. In addition to the very large number of friends and relations in carriages, a long line of citizens on foot accompanied the remains to Blanford [sic]. The “Home Guard,” Capt. Potts, the “Home Cavalry,” Capt. Pannill, the two lodges I. O. Odd Fellows, and the Cavalry of which he was so lately the beloved commander, marched in solemn procession before.
Thus has passed away from among us, a citizen beloved by all, and in return respecting all. Prominent in public as in private life, endeared to all with whom he ever had intercourse, we shall sadly miss him."
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 29.5 x 24.5 inches
Date: Painted in Petersburg, VA in 1841
Collections: Private Collection (By descent in the family)
Exhibitions: The painting has not been exhibited.
Publications: George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement: CRS #16 (2014)
Note: E. Maurice Bloch was not aware of this painting and consequently did not mention or include it in his 1986 Catalogue Raisonne.