William Michael Harnett’s 1880 painting, His Pipe and His Mug, is an impressive example of trompe-l’œil still lifes of ordinary objects. This Irish-American painter is known for his realistic depictions of everyday items, and this particular piece showcases his talent in great detail. The painting features a tobacco pipe in use, along with a package of tobacco, matches, and a newspaper as compositional elements.
Harnett was one of the most significant still-life painters during the late 19th century in America. He immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia with his family at a young age, where he later became widely known for his depictions of ordinary objects such as musical instruments, paper currency, pistols and pocket watches. The newspapers featured behind the mug and pipe are notably difficult to read but remain an integral part of composition tactic used in this piece.
Oil on canvas was the preferred medium used by still-life painters at that time. His Pipe And His Mug transcends beyond its identifiable components through its remarkable technique which captures light reflection aptly besides realistically depicting its subject matter thus illustrating Harnett’s skillset within this genre quite accurately.
Finally it’s noted that Harnett was incredibly successful selling paintings such as His Pipe And His Mug at whatever price he felt comfortable setting them at. With examples like these it’s not surprising why they quickly commanded attention among art-buyers then and continue to be treasured pieces even today due to their technical excellence incorporating everyday objects into high art masterpieces.