Able to match the talents of his better-known brothers in his atmospheric watercolours, Gordon Fraser also developed an independent career as a humorous illustrator – a career cut short by a fatal accident.
George Gordon Fraser was born in Cramond, Edinburgh, on 11 April 1859. The family moved to Bedford in 1861 and, eleven years later, he began to attend the local grammar school. While there, he studied art under Bradford Rudge. During his youth, he enrolled his younger brother, Anderson, and a group of mainly Scottish school friends into a band of like-minded youths called the Cudgel Community, and recorded their exploits in neatly written and illustrated books.
At the age of 18, in 1877, Gordon Fraser began to establish himself as an artist with a single watercolour at ‘The Annual Exhibition of Modern Painters’ at the Walker Gallery, Liverpool. Four years later, he published his first illustrations – those to Wilfred Meynell’s article, ‘Little-Known Sketching Grounds’ – in The Art Journal.
Between 1884 and 1893, he exhibited eight watercolours at the Royal Academy. In 1886, E E Leggatt became his agent.
On 9 September 1884, Fraser married Catherine Home Ramsay Ross of Larne, at Larne, Antrim, Ireland. Remaining in Ireland for an extended honeymoon, he would make the country a significant subject of his watercolours and illustrations. On returning to England, he and his wife settled in London, at 27 Ingersoll Road, Shepherds Bush. In 1886, she would give birth to the first of their four children. The growing family led to moves, first to Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire, in 1887, and then, in 1889, to nearby Houghton.
Through an introduction from his brother, the illustrator, Frank, Gordon Fraser contributed a large number of full-page strip cartoons to Fun, from January 1889 until his death. In the June of that year, three of those drawings were exhibited by the Dalziel Brothers at an ‘Exhibition of Works of English Humourists in Art’ at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. His other work for magazines included contributions to Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday and Larks!, while his book illustrations comprise those to Jerome K Jerome’s The Diary of a Pilgrimage (1891) and his own booklets, O’Brien’s Breeches (1892) and The Moonlighters (undated).
While skating, on 15 February 1895, Fraser drowned beneath the ice near Hemingford Abbots. However, his body was not recovered until 6 April. He was buried beside his father in the churchyard at Hemingford Grey. A collection of his cartoons, entitled Humorous Pictures, was published posthumously in 1896.