William Michael Harnett Biography | Oil Painting Reproductions
8-10-1848 Clonakilty, IRE – 10-29-1892 New York, USABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
William Michael Harnett was born in Ireland during the time of the great potato famine, like so many Irish at the time, shortly after his birth his family emigrated to America, arriving in New York but settling in Philadelphia. As a young man, he made a modest living engraving designs and monograms on table silver, and at night taking classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He decided to get more artistic training and moved to New York, first taking classes at the Cooper Union and then at the National Academy of Design.
The style of Trompe-l'oeil painting that William Michael Harnett created was unmistakable and motivated many imitators, but it was not without precedent. A number of seventeenth-century Dutch painters, Pieter Claesz for instance, had specialized in the tabletop still life of astonishing realism. Raphaelle Peale, working in Philadelphia in the early nineteenth century, pioneered the art form in America.
Although his artworks sold well, they were more likely to be discovered hanging in a bar or an office than in a museum, as they did not conform to contemporary notions of high art. This is a shame, because he was very technically and artistically competent, rivaling any of the old Masters, except his use of unusual Americana objects, made the oil paintings seem less than a comparable painting of silverware and vases.
William Michael Harnett spent the years 1880 to 1886 in Europe, staying in Munich from 1881 until early 1885. Harnett's best-known paintings from Germany are the four versions of After The Hunt. These paintings are especially successful as Trompe-l'oeil because the objects occupy a shallow space, so the illusion remains as a person views it from the center or the sides. Crippling rheumatism plagued William Michael Harnett in his last years, reducing the number but not the quality of his painting.
Artists Influencing William Harnett: Pieter Claesz, Raphaelle Peale.
He Traveled To Germany, France, Netherlands.
Painters William Michael Harnett Influenced: John Haberle, Otis Kaye, Jefferson David Chalfant.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.