By George Franklin
It was the artist and poet William Blake who once said, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." If William Harnett had read this quote and maybe he did, he would have no doubt agreed.
It could very well be said that William Harnett is the grandfather of the art of the mundane. If that sort of appelation doesn't necessarily hold up, then he must surely be considered the most adept at painting objects that would otherwise probably be overlooked, ignored, or just taken for granted simply because 'simple' things at that time, during the mid19th Century were, in and of themselves, considered too ordinary as subject matter for a painting. It is the genius of Harnett, however, that makes the simple things that we are surrounded with on a daily basis , the mundane objects and the ordinary things, "come to life", as it were. Moreover, besides his masterful skill at rendering objects with a keen eye for precision, what sets Harnett's work apart from the imitators and those whom he inspired, was his interest in depicting objects that were not usually made the subject of a still life painting, hence the appelation.
William Harnett was an Irish American painter of the 19th century who painted trompe l'oeil still lifes , a style of painting in which objects are depicted with photographically realistic detail. Crippling rheumatism plagued Harnett in his last years, reducing the number but fortunately not the quality of his paintings. He died in New York City in 1892