The Artist's Letter Rack

William Michael Harnett American

Not on view

This is the earlier of Harnett’s two known “rack” pictures, a subject he and his contemporary John F. Peto had inherited from seventeenth-century Dutch painters. The wood boards of the background, the pink tape of the rack, the cards and envelopes that are tucked into it, and the surrounding paper scraps are all carefully delineated. Curling edges, subtle shadows, and distinctive textures tease the viewer into imagining that all the painted elements are real. A few clues suggest that the canvas was commissioned by someone associated with the Philadelphia firm C. C. Peirson and Sons, which dealt in woolens and hides.

The Artist's Letter Rack, William Michael Harnett (1848–1892), Oil on canvas, American

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