Still Life with a Writing Table
William Michael Harnett, American, 1848 - 1892
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William Harnett is best known for his highly illusionistic still lifes. Harnett's skillful rendering of surface texture and detail conveys not only the age and wear of the objects, but also suggests something about their owner. With its references to intellectual pursuits such as reading and writing, and to commerce, this particular painting may have appealed to a banker or businessman. Many of Harnett's patrons were, in fact, from the business world. They hung his paintings in their offices, department stores, hotels, and taverns, stirring the interest and curiosity of visitors who were fascinated by the artist's skill at replicating familiar things.