This article appears in the January 2011 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
A portrait of a nude woman hangs on Bill Fischer’s kitchen wall. This was one of his first paintings, completed when he was 15 years old in 1933. His refurbished Butchertown shotgun, packed with pieces that he’s created during his 74-year career, is a museum of his artwork. Watercolors of downtown street scenes from the 1960s paper the living room walls. Stained glass from the windows he created for the Keneseth Israel Synagogue on Taylorsville Road decorates the space above his studio’s door and windows. When Jackson Pollock died in 1956, the Devoe & Raynolds Co. was left with a large order of Pollock’s paint, which someone offered Fischer. With it, he created several paintings still on display in his home.
Fischer’s career as an artist began in 1936, when he went to work as an illustrator for the Courier-Journal. He left after the newspaper denied him a raise to $15 a week. “At the end of 10 years, I had $700 to my name,” Fischer says. “I knew I’d have to do something else to make a buck.” After leaving the Courier, he used money from the G.I. Bill to travel to San Miguel, Mexico, where he studied painting with muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Fischer fell in love with the country and continued to visit every winter. Over the years, he opened various Louisville businesses — an Army surplus store, a men’s shoe store — but he never stopped making art.
At 92 years old, Fischer still paints every day, and a few months ago he began a series of abstract pieces that became the basis for his exhibit titled “Full Circle,” running Jan. 9-Feb. 13 at Galerie Hertz (1253 S. Preston St.). “I had a lot of cans of paint and I wanted to get rid of them, so I started my circles on canvas,” Fischer says.
Photo: John Nation