Harold Tishler was born in Odessa, Russia, in 1893. He was encouraged in his artistic studies by his mother, who bought him paint, brushes, and canvas with funds she managed to set aside out of the family’s modest household expenses. While in high school, Tishler accompanied his art teacher on painting excursions into the countryside. Hoping to prepare their son for a practical and lucrative career, his parents raised funds to send him to engineering school at the University of Grenoble in France in about 1910. Tishler disliked the program and moved to New York in about 1913. He joined the army during World War I and served in the Merchant Marine for a five-year period, from 1917 to 1922. During these years he traveled to Hong Kong, where he was first exposed to cloisonné enamels. This began a lifelong love affair with the art of enameling.
In 1927, in an effort to pursue this passion, Tishler moved to Vienna to study at the Kunstgewerbeschule with Michael Powolny and Josef Hoffmann. He spent five years in Vienna, 1927 to 1932, returning to the United States during several summers to teach arts and crafts at summer camps in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. During his stay in Vienna, Tishler received a letter from a young Edward Winter seeking his help in getting to Vienna to study enameling. Tishler was successful in getting Winter admitted to the Kunstgewerbeschule, where they studied and worked together.
Tishler returned to New York in 1932 and started producing items for sale in high-end shops. He also taught enameling courses at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1932 to 1935. In 1935 Tishler visited Winter in Cleveland. During that visit he was introduced to Winter’s signature enameling method, in which the metal is immersed into liquid enamel to achieve a better and more comprehensive coating than could be obtained from sifting on powdered enamel. Tishler quickly adopted the method, and the similarities between some of their works are uncanny.
Back in New York, he continued teaching and producing silver and enameled objects for sale. He eventually gave up teaching, however, as he did not enjoy it. He preferred to work quietly on his craft. Some of his work from that period was included in a 1937 exhibition of silver at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The same year, he also submitted several large enamels to the International Exposition in Paris. He was awarded a gold and silver medal. He was able to earn enough money to rent a house in Rockport, Massachusetts, where he and his wife, Sadye, operated a gift shop during the summer months from 1950 to 1959.
In 1969 they moved to Florida. Tishler continued to work on his enameling, moving from an abstract style to a representational one. He took great pleasure in forming and enameling flora and fauna. These were either made into jewelry or mounted and framed. Winter was so taken by this work that he devoted a section of his book Enamel Painting Techniques
(1970) to Tishler, illustrating his method of production. Tishler continued to work on his beloved animals until his death in 1993.