Art for the Nation    
The Old ViolinWilliam Harnett, Trompe l'Oeil MasterPainting Money  
Trompe l'Oeil William Harnett  
   

Still Life—Five Dollar Bill by William Harnett
William Michael Harnett,
Still-Life Five Dollar Bill, 1877, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Alex Simpson Jr. Collection

Painting Money

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.



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