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The Arkansas Arts Center's "George Fisher: The Presidents"

Event Type: MAIN - EXHIBIT
Date: 1/5/2014
Start Time: All Day
Description:
 George Fisher was a political cartoonist whose work influenced and helped define politics for a generation. He created a series of visual metaphors and themes that were widely associated with the politicians he caricatured and became a part of Arkansas political folklore. Fisher focused primarily on political, social, and environmental issues.

George Edward Fisher was born on April 8, 1923, near Searcy, White County, Arkansas to Charles W. Fisher, a tree nursery owner, and Gladys Fisher. His mother died when he was five, and his father alone raised Fisherfs two brothers, sister, and him. Fisher grew up in Beebe, where he attended school and started the Beebe Grammar School News. His father encouraged his sonfs interest in drawing. Fisher attended Beebe College for a year while serving in the Army Reserves. He left college in 1943 after being called to active duty. While stationed in England, he attended drawing classes at the Municipal College of Art at Bournemouth and drew cartoons for his regiment's newspaper. In Bournemouth, he met art student Rosemary Beryl Snook. While serving as an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge, Fisher maintained a sketch diary of his fighting experiences. After the war, in 1946, Fisher married Snook and returned to college.

His first cartooning position was with the West Memphis News, run by World War II veterans determined to fight the abuses of Arkansas's machine politicians. At the time of his hiring in 1946, Fisher wrote news stories in addition to drawing cartoons. When the West Memphis News closed in 1949, Fisher opened Fisher Art Services in a downtown Little Rock office. His commercial clients included Southwestern Bell, doing ad layouts for the Yellow Pages. At the urging of friends, Fisher approached the North Little Rock Times and offered to draw political cartoons for free. Times editor Robert McCord accepted the offer, and Fisher's cartoons were an instant success. The Pine Bluff Commercial began using the Times' cartoons, and the statewide daily newspaper Arkansas Gazette used them in its Sunday editorial section.

Fisher was not officially hired as the Gazette editorial cartoonist until 1976. Even then he maintained his studio, just one block away from the Gazette Building. "They told me to draw anything I wanted to draw. They had the option of accepting it or not. I found that they were very receptive to any idea that I had. That was what they wanted. They wanted my ideas. Even though the cartoon might not always dovetail with their policies, still, they wanted my ideas. I guess that is the way it should be. I was so surprised that they would accept some of the cartoons. I did not think some of the cartoons would ever see the light of day."

Fisher approached national issues and figures with the swagger afforded a Washington outsider. His unapologetic depictions of the Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan and Bush administrations are represented in this exhibition. Fisher had a major head start over national cartoonists when it came to the depictions of fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton.

Despite this artistic talent, he resisted the notion of becoming a nationally syndicated cartoonist. Local issues were what drove his interest in cartooning in the first place] and he never lost sight of that. Most Arkansans have an engrained knowledge of Fisher created icons such as Faubus Farkleberries, searching for Snooky, Clinton in the baby carriage, Goobers, and the Old Guard Rest Home.

Fisher was a champion of environmental issues. He lampooned the Army Corps of Engineers policies with a campaign protesting the corpsfs damming of free-flowing streams in the 1960s. One cartoon showed two engineers looking down at a ruined channeled stream; the caption read, God would have done it if he had the money.

Fisher worked for the Gazette until the rival Arkansas Democrat bought its assets in 1991, after which he drew cartoons for the Arkansas Times. He died on December 15, 2003, of an apparent heart attack at his drawing board in his Little Rock home.
Library: William F. Laman Public Library    Map to the Main Library
Location: Exhibit Hall - Main Library, 2nd Floor
Contact: Debra Wood
Contact Number: 501.771.1995 x105
Presenter: Debra S. Wood