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Image of Merganser

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William Michael Harnett, American (born Ireland), (1848–October 29, 1892)

Creation date: 1883
Creation place: Germany

Other Information

Type: Oil Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Museum purchase with funds provided by the Gerald and Inez Grant Parker Foundation
Accession Number: 1972.185
State/Province: Bavaria
Dimensions: 34 1/8 in. x 20 1/2 in. (86.68 cm x 52.07 cm)
Currently on view


Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York ( - July 5, 1972)

Mrs. Rogers, Munich, Bavaria, Germany ( - )

Mr. Hastings, Munich, Bavaria, Germany (1883 - )

William Michael Harnett, Munich, Bavaria, Germany (1883 - 1883)

The Downtown Gallery, New York, New York (ca. 1950 - October 1950)

Spohn, Youngstown, Ohio (1948 - ca. 1950)

The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio (October 1950 - 1954)

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (July 5, 1972 - )

Label Copy

After studying in Philadelphia and New York, William Harnett lived in Europe from 1880 to 1886, spending four of those years in Munich, where he was exposed to seventeenth-century still life paintings by Dutch artists. While abroad, he produced a number of canvases depicting suspended game and hunting accoutrements, a type of work that became increasingly popular with local patrons. Merganser was commissioned as one of a pair of paintings for a dining room in the home of a Mr. Hastings of Munich. The feathers on the duck’s wings and one leg draw the viewer’s eyes to the right-hand side of the canvas. The bird is lifeless, but its angled right foot gives it a sense of life. Despite being historically undervalued, still lifes such as Harnett’s paintings demonstrate great technical skill while also revealing domestic life through the depiction of popular foods. His canvases belong to the tradition of trompe l’oeil and appeared so real and natural that they often fooled the viewer.
Last Updated: 7/27/2021


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

The Director's Choice The National Art Museum of Sport , 1/13/1991 - 3/28/1992

ViceVersa: Deutsche Maler in Amerika/Amerikanische Maler in Deutschland, 1813-19 Deutsches Historisches Museum , 9/27/1996 - 12/1/1996

America: Die Neue Welt in Bildern des 19.Jahrhunderts Österreichische Galerie Belvedere , 3/17/1999 - 6/20/1999

American: Die Neue Welt in Bildern des 19. Jahrhunderts , 3/17/1999 - 6/20/1999

General Exhibition , 11/25/2002 - 1/26/2003

Art of the United States The San Diego Museum of Art , 3/24/2013 - 10/22/2013

Modern and Contemporary , 12/21/2013 - 00/00/00

Art of the Americas San Diego Museum of Art , 12/23/2013 - 00/00/00

American Art The San Diego Museum of Art , 11/26/2016 - 8/15/2021


This object has the following bibliographic references:

Mr. Martin E. Petersen. San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 1993
Page Number: 150, 162, 163, Figure Number: 163

Mr. D. Scott Atkinson. Belvedere, Österreichische Galerie • Belvedere. Wien, Austria, 1998
Page Number: 41-42, 43, Figure Number: 6

Katharina M. Bott and Gerhard W.R. Bott. ViceVersa: Deutsches Hitorisches Museum/Hirmer Verlag GmbH. Berlin/München, 1996
Page Number: 362, 363, Figure Number: 72

Stephan Koja, ed. America: Prestel Verlag. Munich, Germany, 1999
Page Number: 140, Figure Number: 90

Stephan Koja. America: Prestel Verlag. Munich, Germany, 1999
Page Number: 287, no. 90

Stephan Koja, ed. America: Prestel Verlag. München, Germany, 1999
Page Number: 140, Figure Number: 90

Stephan Koja. America: Prestel Verlag. München, Germany, 1999
Page Number: 290, no. 90

Alfred Victor Frankenstein. After the Hunt: William Harnett and Other American Still Life Painters, 1870-1890 University of California Press. Berkeley, California, 1969
Page Number: 175, no. 83

Mr. Steven L. Brezzo. Sport in Art from American Museums: Universe Publishing, Inc.. New York, New York, 1990
Page Number: 58, 59, Figure Number: 23


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