William Harnett Biography and Artwork

William Harnett was a talented and influential 19th-century American still-life painter. Born in Clonakilty, Ireland, he was brought to Philadelphia by his immigrant parents as an infant. Harnett began working as an engraver before attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later studying at New York’s National Academy of Design.

Harnett’s skillful arrangements pushed the art of trompe l’oeil painting to its limits, making him the most imitated still-life painter of the late 19th century in America. He is recognized for his mastery in arranging dead game, printed matter, domestic bric-a-brac and objects associated with enjoying music, literature, and art.

The artist raised enough money from his artwork to travel to Europe where he gained inspiration for his distinctive brand of deceptive illusionism. Throughout his career, Harnett created meticulously composed arrangements that challenged viewers’ perceptions; so convincing that on one occasion it is said that art collectors tried to remove documents from a piece on display!

William Harnett’s innovative work continues to be celebrated as some of America’s finest examples of realist painting even after more than 100 years since they were first exhibited.

All William Harnett Artwork on Artchive

Artwork Name Year Medium
Still-life With Violin 1888 Oil On Canvas
His Pipe And His Mug 1880 Oil On Canvas
My Gems 1888 Oil On Wood
The Faithful Colt 1890 Oil On Canvas
Cigar Box, Pitcher And "new York Herald" 1880 Oil On Canvas
Mr. Hulings' Rack Picture 1888 Oil on Canvas
Munich Still-Life 1882 Oil on Canvas
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