Still Life with a Writing Table

William Michael Harnett, American, 1848 - 1892

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

8 1/16 x 12 13/16 inches (20.5 x 32.5 cm) Frame: 17 1/4 x 21 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches (43.8 x 54 x 8.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Alex Simpson, Jr., Collection, 1943

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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.