Munich Still Life
William Michael Harnett ( American, 1848 - 1892 )
Painted in Germany, this still life displays the meticulously detailed realism that marked William Michael Harnett’s brief career. Harnett assembled a variety of objects—bread, turnips, paper, matches, glass—whose diverse surfaces allowed him to display his great facility with rendering different textures in oil paint. Born in County Cork, Harnett was raised in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design in New York. He had begun making highly detailed still lifes even before he moved to Europe in 1880 for six years’ residency and study in Munich and Paris. In the late nineteenth century, trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) still lifes such as this were enormously popular with collectors and the public, although they received little critical attention at the time.
Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 197.