Maud Horman-Fisher - Zoological artist and illustrator

by Ann Sylph on

You may have seen my previous blog about entomologist Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe, one of the ten daughters of a former ZSL Librarian and an ornithologist, Richard Bowdler Sharpe. The blog featured some beautiful illustrations from her monograph on the butterfly genus Teracolus published in 1898-1902, these were based on art work by “M. Horman-Fisher”.

I was intrigued by the artist and resolved to find out more, it has taken me rather a long time so I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to highlight the work of Maud Horman-Fisher.

Coloured illustration of 5 beetle species, the centre beetle with long antennae
Coleoptera from Timor-Laut, PZS 1884 Plate 16

During the Victorian period there was a huge and increasing demand for illustrations in publications such as the Proceedings and Transactions of the Zoological Society, as well as journals such as Ibis which was co-founded by ZSL’s Secretary, Philip Lutley Sclater.  Additionally the market for illustrated books was expanding. These offered opportunities for  women illustrators.  Maud Horman-Fisher is such an example, providing 21 illustrations for Proceedings of the Zoological Society between 1884 and 1894 for 18 published papers.

Hand coloured illustration of 8 species of dragonfly
Dragonflies from N.W. India PZS 1886 Plate no. 33

Maud Horman-Fisher illustrated many of Emily Sharpe’s papers in ZSL’s Proceedings  (Sharpe, 1890, 1891a, 1891b, 1894). She provided illustrations for papers by Charles O. Waterhouse on insects collected by Harry H. Johnston &  H.O. Forbes, plus papers by Arthur G. Butler, Oldfield Thomas, William Forsell Kirby, Reginald Innes Pocock, a total of 21 plates (Root and Johnson, 1986). The animals described came from a range of countries around the world, illustrating how ZSL was acting as a knowledge centre, disseminating descriptions of species from across the British Empire and beyond, wherever colonial administrators or army personnel were working. The papers with illustrations by Maud Horman-Fisher include animals from countries in Africa, parts of India and Borneo, often describing species new to science.

As well as providing illustrations for ZSL’s Proceedings, Maud Horman-Fisher provided artworks to the British Museum (Natural History). Most of these authors were associated both with ZSL and the Museum.

I have discovered little about Maud Horman-Fisher, she remains elusive. Siobhan Leachman sourced some details which she has added to wikimedia and wikidata - she found Maud was born circa 1861 in London, she died in 1904 and was buried on 21 January 1904 at Putney Vale Cemetery, Wandsworth. 

There is a letter from her in the Library and Archives of the Natural History Museum, it is dated 18th October 1879 and gives some insight to her background (DF ZOO/200/15/148). She was writing to the Zoology Department at the Museum, her address was 27 St Paul’s Crescent, Camden Square, NW so by then she had moved to north London, a short distance from ZSL London Zoo. In her letter she explains that her father had been a solicitor, she and her sisters their “means being very small” depended on colouring to help their mother and to earn a living. At the time Maud would be around 18 years of age, she was asking the Department of Zoology for further work and explains she had visited the Museum to get some beetle plates for a publication by Charles Waterhouse but had learned that the plates were to be chromolithographed instead of hand coloured.

Black and white illustration depicting various views of mammal skulls
Skulls of Bornean mammals, PZS 1892 Plate 19

Christine E. Jackson, a regular visitor to ZSL Library, has written about the production of and colouring of lithographic plates in the nineteenth century, this means of production was used extensively in ZSL’s scientific publications. Once a lithographic plate had been printed it would be hand coloured with the colourists consulting a ‘pattern plate’ supplied by the printer or artist to ensure the correct colours were used – a necessity in correct identification of a species, particularly birds, especially when the number of new species being described was increasing. Women were often employed to hand-colour plates. Eventually the chromolithographic process allowed colour to be printed with no need for hand-colouring.

As well as colouring plates, Maud Horman-Fisher seems to have been successful producing original artworks for prints when we look at her printed plates in ZSL’s Proceedings. I have included some examples in the blog, she worked on mainly insects but also supplied images for papers on mammals by Oldfield Thomas. Her plates for the Proceedings were during the time period 1884 to 1894 and she also produced plates for other publications by people associated with ZSL and the Museum such as Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe’s monograph on the genus Teracolus;  Arthur G. Butler’s Illustrations of typical specimens of Lepidoptera Heterocera in the collection of the British Museum and Charles O. Waterhouse’s Aid to the identification of insects. She carried on with scientific illustration for several more years.

Colour plate depicting 3 species of moth
New or rare Sphingidae PZS 1886 Plate 27

In the collections of the Library and Archives of the Natural History Museum there are various art works by Maud Horman-Fisher for the Museum’s Insect Gallery:-  46 art works dated 1896-1897 (DF ENT/311/298); 10 drawings of eggs of Phasmids dated 1903 (DF ENT/311/295) as well as a further collection of 29 drawings of insects attributed to her and E.E. Austen, Keeper of Entomology, dated 1897-99 (DF ENT/311/294).

I am grateful to Adrian Taylor at ZSL who carried out some family history research for me using Find my Past and Ancestry UK. According to the 1891 Census, Maud Horman-Fisher was still living at 27 St Paul's Cresent, Camden Square NW1. She was born in 1859 and was aged 32, her occupation was "artist". She lived with her sisters Alice, aged 30, also an artist and Edith aged 27. Widow, Ann Fisher, is listed at "Head of the household" and "living on her own means". A "boarder" is also listed in the household - Harry W. Scott a "Fine Insurance Clerk" born in Plymouth and aged 39. According to electoral records, by 1897 Maud Horman-Fisher had moved to 5 Elm Terrace, Chelsea, she is the only resident listed at this address. Adrian found that her mother was Sarah Ann Pugh born in Brittany and married to John Horman Fiser in Lambeth in 1852, a 'gentleman', his father a solicitor. In the 1851 census he is listed as an 'articled clerk. Thanks to Adrian Taylor for finding these additional details.

I do hope you have enjoyed this blog introducing Maud Horman-Fisher, I hope the blog inspires further research into the work of this talented scientific illustrator.

Thanks to Siobhan Leachman for providing information about Maud Horman-Fisher and encouraging me to find out more and Adrian Taylor for the family history information. I am also grateful for the assistance of Staff at the Library & Archives at the Natural History Museum.

Colourful illustration of new species of butterfly
New species of Neotropical Lepidoptera PZS 1890 Plate 46

A previous blog highlighted women artists and illustrators so do take a look if you would like to find out more - Women, art and zoology and I also wrote a post for Art Herstory - Women in zoological art and illustration


Items consulted/Further reading

Jackson, Christine E. (2011). The painting of hand-coloured zoological illustrations. Archives of Natural History, volume 38, issue 1, pp. 36-52.

Jackson, Christine E. (2011). The materials and methods of hand-colouring zoological illustrations, Archives of Natural History, volume 38, issue 1, pp. 53-64.

Jackson, Christine E. (1994). Richard Bowdler Sharpe and his ten daughters Archives of Natural History, volume 21, issue 3, pp. 261-269.

[Leachman, Siobhan (2019).] Maud Horman-Fisher, Wikimedia : and Wikidata: 

Root, N.J. & Johnson, B.R. (1986). “Horman-Fisher, Maud (fl. 1880-1900)", Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London : an index to the artists 1848-1900. New York & London : Garland Publishing, pp. 238-243.


Items consulted in the Library and Archives of the Natural History Museum

DF ENT/311/294 Exhibition artwork: Coloured drawings of insects prepared for the Insect Gallery by Miss Maud Horman Fisher and E E Austen, 1897-99.

DF ENT/311/295 Exhibition artwork: Coloured drawings of eggs of the Phasmidae for the Insect Gallery by Miss Maud Horman Fisher, 1903.

DF ENT/311/298 Exhibition artwork: Coloured drawings prepared for the Insect Gallery by Miss Maud Horman Fisher, 1896-1897

DF ZOO/200/15/148 Fisher, Maud Herman. 18 Oct 1879: 1 letter


Publications illustrated by Maud Horman-Fisher and mentioned in the blog

Butler, Arthur G. (1877-93) Illustrations of typical specimens of Lepidoptera Heterocera in the collection of the British Museum, London : Printed by order of the Trustees.

Sharpe, Emily Mary Bowdler (1898[-1902]. A monograph of the genus Teracolus, London : Reeve. (Monographiae entomologicae ; 1)

Waterhouse, Charles O. (1880-90). Aid to the identification of insects, London :  Janson


Papers in Proceedings of the Zoological Society with illustrations by Maud Horman-Fisher

Subscribers to Journal of Zoology have access to these papers. Print copies are available in ZSL Library.

Butler, Arthur G. (1886). On Lepidoptera collected by Major Yerbury in western India. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 54, pp. 335-95.

Butler, Arthur G. (1885). An Account of two Collections of Lepidoptera recently received from Somali-land. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 53, pp. 756-76.

Kirby, W.F. (1886). Remarks on four rare species species of moths of the family Sphingidae. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 54, pp. 325-29.

Kirby, W.F. (1886). On a small collection of dragonflies from Muree and Cambellpore (N.W.India), received from Major J.W. Yerbury, R.A. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 54, pp. 325-29.   

Pocock, R.I. (1890). A revision of the genera of scorpions of the family Buthidae, with descriptions of some South-African species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 58, pp. 114-41.

Sharpe, Emily Mary (1894). List of  butterflies collected by Captain J.W. Pringle, R.E., on the march from Teita to Uganda, in British East Africa. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 62, pp. 334-353.

Sharpe, Emily Mary (1891a). Descriptions of New Butterflies collected by Mr. F. J. Jackson, F.Z.S., in British East Africa, during his recent Expedition.—Part I. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 59, pp. 187-194. 

Sharpe, Emily Mary (1891b). Descriptions of New Butterflies collected by Mr. F. J. Jackson, F.Z.S., in British East Africa, during his recent Expedition.—Part II. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 59, pp. 633-638.

Sharpe, Emily Mary (1890). On a collection of Lepidoptera made by Mr. Edmund Reynolds on the rivers Tocantins and Araguaya and in the province of Goyaz, Brazil. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 58, pp. 552-577. 

Thomas, Oldfield (1892). On the species of the Hyracoidea. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 60, pp. 50-76.

Thomas, Oldfield (1892).On some mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 60, pp. 221-27.

Thomas, Oldfield (1889). Description of a new genus of Muridae allied to Hydromys. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 57, pp. 247-50.

Thomas, Oldfield (1889). On a new mongoose allied to Herpestes albicaudatus. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 57, pp. 622-24.

Thomas, Oldfield (1888). The Mammals of the Solomon Islands, based on the Collections made by Mr. C. M. Woodford during his Second Expedition to the Archipelago. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 56, pp. 470-84.

Thomas, Oldfield (1886). Notes on a striking instance of cranial variation due to age. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 54, pp. 125-27.

Thomas, Oldfield (1886). On the wallaby commonly known as Lagostrophus fasciatus. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 54, pp. 544-47.

Waterhouse, Charles O. (1885). On the insects collected on Kilimanjaro by Mr. H.H. Johnston. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 53, pp. 230-35.

Waterhouse, Charles O. (1884). On the Coleopterous Insects collected by Mr. H. O. Forbes in the Timor-Laut Islands. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, volume 52, pp. 213-19.

Coloured plate depicting 5 scorpion species
South African Buthidae PZS 1890 Plate 13

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