Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 William Michael Harnett is today acknowledged to be one of America's greatest still-life painters. He was born in county Cork, Ireland, and came to Philadelphia with his family around 1849. He began his career as an engraver. In 1867 he enrolled in evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and after moving to New York in 1869, attended classes at the National Academy of Design. He exhibited his first painting in 1875 at the Academy and at the Cooper Union. In 1876, Harnett returned to Philadelphia to resume his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy and began exhibiting his still-lifes at academy exhibitions. Harnett went to Europe in 1880, remaining there until 1886. In London and Frankfurt he studied the still-life paintings of seventeenth-century Dutch masters and then went to Munich for about four years, achieving considerable popular success. Some of these paintings would prove to have a significant influence upon late nineteenth-century still-life painting in America.

In 1886 Harnett settled in New York. The paintings of his last six years include many tabletop still-lifes in which objects of different form and texture are arranged. Harnett would often use the same objects in painting after painting, rearranging them to create different compositions. He died in New York City in 1892 and was buried in Philadelphia.