William M. Harnett

Overview

In his short but productive career, William Michael Harnett (1848-1892) became the great American master of trompe-l'oeil still-life painting. His works, popular with the public long before they were appreciated by the art critics, "fool the eye" with their convincing, sharp-edged definition of form and careful rendering of materials. This volume provides the first thorough examination of Harnett's career and its significance for the history of American art. Twenty-two essays by a roster of leading scholars ...
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1992 Trade paperback Unabridged. New. Trade paperback (US). 352 p.

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Overview

In his short but productive career, William Michael Harnett (1848-1892) became the great American master of trompe-l'oeil still-life painting. His works, popular with the public long before they were appreciated by the art critics, "fool the eye" with their convincing, sharp-edged definition of form and careful rendering of materials. This volume provides the first thorough examination of Harnett's career and its significance for the history of American art. Twenty-two essays by a roster of leading scholars examine three major areas: Harnett's relationship to his contemporaries, among them painters, patrons, critics, and the general public; his formative training and experiences; and the meaning of his themes for the audience that supported him. These essays discuss not only Harnett's own technical skill and artistic development, but also the aesthetic issues of illusionism and trompe l'oeil, Harnett's relationship to other painters working in a similar vein, and the implications of his subject matter. Ultimately, the essays help to resolve the question of how Harnett's technically skillful imitations of real objects fit the definition of "art" and what his popularity says about the culture in which he worked and lived. Each of the editors has written an essay for this volume; other contributors include Henry Adams, Maria Chamberlin-Hellman, Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Elizabeth Jane Connell, William H. Gerdts, Elizabeth Johns, Judy L. Larson, David M. Lubin, Chad Mandeles, Roxana Robinson, and Paul J. Staiti. The forty-nine works reproduced in full color and arranged chronologically provide the first comprehensive survey of Harnett's work. A bibliography, chronology, and thorough index add to the reference value of this handsome volume.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780883600696
  • Publisher: Amon Carter Museum
  • Publication date: 2/1/1992
  • Pages: 352

Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Explanatory Note
Approaches to Still-Life Painting
"Sordid Mechanics" and "Monkey-Talents": The Illusionistic Tradition 19
Illusionism, Trompe l'Oeil, and the Perils of Viewership 31
Permanent Objects in a Changing World: Harnett's Still Lifes as a Hold on the Past 49
A Study in Contrasts: The Work of Harnett and La Farge 61
The Patrons of the Artist: Emblems of Commerce and Culture 73
The Artist's Public Face: Lifetime Exhibitions and Critical Reception 87
Harnett Enters Art History 101
Elements of Artistic Development
Burin to Brush: Harnett as an Artisan 131
The Artist and American Art Academies 137
Notes of Change: Harnett's Paintings of the Late 1870s 149
Common Objects of Everyday Life 161
The Artist's Working Methods 169
Harnett and Photography 177
The Late Years 185
The Major Themes
Permanent Perishables: The Artist's Fruit Paintings 211
"The Best Index of American Life": Newspapers in the Artist's Work 223
"Job Lot Cheap": Books, Bindings, and the Old Bookseller 233
Commodified Displays: The Bric-a-Brac Still Lifes 243
Grave Counsel: Harnett and Vanitas 253
Literary References in Harnett's Still-Life Paintings 265
After the Hunt 277
Harnett and Music: Many a Touching Melody 289
Chronology 309
Selected Bibliography 315
Index 320
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