The legacy of Julian Fisher


Emma Bovill

June 12, 2023

The true power of art lies in its ability to create connection. The subject or style may evoke a memory, crystallise an experience, prompt self-awareness or ask questions, deepening our understanding of ourselves and others. When art is gifted, it becomes embellished with an additional layer of meaning, a fine lacquering of good energy that forever combine artist, artwork, giver and recipient in a web of positive threads.

At its root, ArtÓ exists because of a specific moment in time when avid appreciation for an artwork by South African painter Julian Fisher resulted in a gift that would start an art collection. ArtÓ Founder Antony Finn visited the home of interior designer Lillian Bond in Johannesburg in 1992, a house awash with art and several pieces by Fisher, when his eye was taken by an oil on board of the New York skyline.

“In the middle of one wall, was a very recognisable Julian Fisher. I later learned that it was from his travels to the USA in the 1980s,” explains Finn. “I was admiring it when Lillian caught me inspecting the style and detail. She asked if I liked that one for some reason and I explained I loved the artist’s impression of New York in such an abstracted way and his use of the pallet knife. Lillian immediately removed the painting and gifted it to me there on the spot.”

From Lillian with love, the Julian Fisher artwork that would be for the catalyst for an art collection

That act of generosity, initially refused on the grounds of politeness by Finn, would ignite a love of art in a young mind, a joy of gifting it to others and a desire to inspire emerging artists as a supporter of the arts. “That was a moment in my life where my inextricable connection with art was made,” affirms Finn. “The painting by Julian Fisher was the first piece of art I ever owned and has hung in every home I have ever lived in since. It is the reason I have invested in art over a lifetime.”

Julian Fisher, who passed away in 2019, would never know that his painting had such a profound impact nor that it would be the catalyst for an art gallery, ArtÓ in Stow-on-the-Wold, 30 years after it was gifted. An art gallery with a difference, where all art is ‘owned not loaned’ and artists are supported financially upfront in an echo of the philanthropic attitude to the visual arts inspired in Finn by Lillian Bond.

Red Dust Sandstorm

A year after opening ArtÓ, Finn was able to contact Fisher’s son Peter through filmmaker Eli Rabinowitz, a friend of Julian and his wife Batya. Peter moved to Perth, Australia in 1986 with his parents and sisters joining him in the following years. Peter divulged that his father’s legacy lives on in one of his granddaughters, an architect like Julian, and one of his great granddaughters “who has not only inherited my father’s talent but a talent far beyond that” says Peter encouragingly.

Discovering the catalytic effect of his father’s art has offered the opportunity for a closer link to his work for Peter. “I think with the benefit of hindsight that my father was quite gifted,” he explains. “Probably growing up with his art studio right outside my bedroom for a large period of my teenage years I don’t think I appreciated it enough or gave him credit enough. It is only in your mature years that you can reflect objectively.”

Circles of Life

Connecting with Peter has also shed light on Julian’s creative collaboration with wife Batya, an insight gracefully shared. “She was a very big supporter and encourager of his art and she took great interest particularly when it came to naming the art pieces,” reveals Peter. “My father would debate the naming with her at length and she really helped him in this area as well. They used to put great emphasis on getting the ‘naming aspect’ right.”

Fisher’s talents have held a fascination for Antony Finn since he first observed the painter’s impression of the Big Apple. “How a man of precision, an architect, was also a renowned award-winning abstract artist, leaving a legacy of fine art across the globe that has had an impact on people like me, is worthy of celebrating,” he says warmly. “Julian Fisher’s artwork started my journey in the art world and it’s because of him that the idea for ArtÓ was formed.”

Eye of the Beholder

With heartfelt thanks to Peter Fisher and Batya Fisher for insights and images.


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