HARNETT, William Michael (1848-1892)
The Old Violin
Covington, Kentucky: Donaldson Art and Sign Company, c. 1903. Chromolithograph. Repaired tear at top. Image size (including text): 35 x 24 inches.
Considered the father of American trompe l'oeil painting, William Michael Harnett began his career in 1865 when he began to practice the engraver's trade. In 1871 he moved to New York and studied at the National Academy of Design at Cooper Union. It was by the mid-1870's that he first began to exhibit at the National Academy of Design and at the Philadelphia Centennial. By 1880 Harnett had realized his lifelong dream of traveling to Europe to study in the best art centers there. He went to London, then to Frankfurt, then in 1881 to Munich where he lived for four years.
Shortly after his return to the United States, Harnett painted The Old Violin, the most famous of all his single-object pictures. Its fame was spread by the chromolithograph produced by publisher Frank Tuchfarber of Cincinnati, who purchased the original oil painting from Harnett at the 13th Annual Industrial Exposition in 1886. Frank Tuchfarber was responsible for some of the finest American chromolithographs produced in the 19th century. The Old Violin is indeed an extraordinary achievement and one that was undoubtedly Tuchfarber's masterpiece. It was produced from no fewer than 17 separate stones and printed on metal, glass or paper. Copies of the print exist with either Tuchfarber's name at the lower right or, with the name of the Donaldson Art Sign Company, as in this issue.
The present copy is a printer's proof that, unlike issued impressions, is not trimmed to the image; it retains its margins, with their registration crosses, color keys and ink bleeds.