William Harnett was an Irish-American painter who immigrated to the American East Coast as an infant to escape the Irish potato famine. He supported himself for engraving silverware as a youth, and not completing one of his trademark still lives until 1874, at age 26. Harnett’s still lives are almost exclusively trompe-l’œil works, meaning that the objects in them were so realistically rendered that they appeared capable of being removed from the canvas. Like many accomplished artists of his time, Harnett traveled extensively in Europe to round out his study of painting techniques. Although he mainly sold his work to non-art institutions (like restaurants and offices), his paintings were inducted into museum collections including the Cleveland Museum of Art, The National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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