William Michael Harnett, Still-Life Five Dollar Bill, 1877,
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Alex Simpson Jr. Collection
While most famous
for his vertical still lifes of wild game, musical instruments, and paper
ephemera, William Harnett is credited with introducing another, more controversial,
subject to still life: money. Other artists had included currency in their
paintings, but Harnett was the first to focus solely on paper bills and
coins, making them look so real that in 1886 he
was arrested for counterfeiting. Harnett stopped making trompe l'oeil
images of money, but another artist, John
Haberle, ignored warnings to "stop painting greenbacks"
and made it his specialty.