Contemporary Arts Center
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center
for Contemporary Art
44 E. 6th Street,
Cincinnati, OH 45202
513 345 8400
William Michael Harnett (August 10, 1848 – October 29, 1892) was an Irish-American painter known for his trompe l'oeil still lifes of ordinary objects.
The style of trompe l'oeil painting that Harnett developed was distinctive and inspired many imitators, but it was not without precedent. A number of 17th century Dutch painters, Pieter Claesz for instance, had specialized in tabletop still life of astonishing verisimilitude. Raphaelle Peale, working in Philadelphia in the early 19th century, pioneered the form in America. What sets Harnett's work apart, besides his enormous skill, is his interest in depicting objects not usually made the subject of a painting.