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Part of The American Wing
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire)
Date: 1888, cast 1890Accession Number: 17.104
Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Date: 1871Accession Number: 34.92
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As a glance around this gallery confirms, portrayals of artists, craftsmen, and scientists at work were popular during the late nineteenth century. Not only did professionalism in all lines of work burgeon, but American artists themselves became self-consciously professional, and nostalgia grew for fast-fading handicraft traditions. Underscoring the importance of the studio environment, painters of still lifes concentrated on artificial setups of manufactured objects rather than on nature's bounty, which their predecessors had described (see 756). The most imitated and skillful post–Civil War still-life specialist was William Michael Harnett, who painted many tabletop arrangements and pushed to its limits the art of trompe l'oeil ("trick the eye"), depicting three-dimensional objects convincingly on a two-dimensional plane.
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