Art Appreciation 10:10
October 6, 2006
Ease, by William Michael Harnett looks to be a erratic clutter of various objects on a desk, but it is also very relatable to many. The artwork was created in 1887 using oil on canvas as a medium, and measures 48 X 52 3/4 inches. Harnett is an Irish-born American painter who specialized in still life which was common during his life time. He lived from 1848-1892
Harnett uses the fundamentals of art greatly in this realistic depiction of diverse intelligence. He seems to show only the space that is directly related to the desk while he almost crops out everything else. His shapes are more organic than geometric, as the things he is painting are real items and very true to life. As far as lighting and shadow it feels as though the light is shimmering in from a high window from the left as it casts its shadow across the canvas. The shading of the shadow behind also adds depth to make the painting look more three dimensional.
The desk seems to represent a very intellectual and extremely well rounded
individual as you glance across the painting you see things from very diverse interests such as music, the flute sheet music and violin. As well as literature, showing multiple novels or almanacs. And what seems to be a newspaper which shows an interest in current affairs. Flowers show a nature loving facet of the artists subject.
I think the painting is an excerpt of a very busy and multi faceted person whose interests are very diverse and are tied together by this desk which seems to be a docking station to all things important. I also am under the impression that the artist was almost a perfectionist when it came to his still life paintings after some research that stated ”Harnett's skills suggested a classical parallel: he was the American Zeuxis, the ancient Greek painter who supposedly could paint grapes so lifelike that birds flew down to peck at them.” Earlier in his life it is even rumored that he painted a five dollar bill so life like that he was almost arrested for forgery.
William Michael Harnett, Ease 1887, 2003 Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth Texas.
Harden, Mark. "William Harnett." The Artchive. 5 Oct. 2006 <http://www.artchive.com/artchive/H/harnett.html>.
Robert Hughes, "American Visions: The Epic History of Art...