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William Harnett (Irish-American, 1848-1892), A Royal Dessert

William Harnett (Irish-American, 1848-1892), A Royal Dessert courtesy of Currier Museum, Manchester, NH
William Harnett (Irish-American, 1848-1892)
Dated 1881
Oil on canvas, 23-3/8 x 19-3/8 inches
Courtesy of Currier Museum, Manchester, NH

Until recently, the whereabouts of this painting was unknown. Having survived a fire in 2001 in the Peterborough, NH, home of a family who had owned it for the past sixty years, it was donated to the Currier and the Harris Center in Hancock, NH; The Currier subsequently purchased the Harris Center's interest using the Henry Melville Fuller Acquisition Fund.

Born in Ireland, Harnett was raised in Philadelphia and trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, later working in New York City. By 1880 his success permitted him to travel to Europe to study the Old Masters. A Royal Dessert was painted during the two years he spent in Munich. Harnett's convincing rendering of illusionistic space, of detail, and of texture made him a master of the category of still life paintings known as trompe l'oeil. The last time A Royal Dessert was exhibited publicly was in an exhibition of contemporary art in 1883 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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