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William Michael Harnett was an Irish-American painter who was best known for his trompe l'il still life paintings of ordinary objects. In his paintings, he depicted ordinary objects in a trompe-l'oeil way, making the viewer think that they are looking at a living thing. His art is now highly collectible and is considered an American classic.

In 1873, Harnett moved to New York and continued his studies at the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union. His first still lifes were completed in 1874, and he became a leading 'trompe l'oeil' painter in the United States. He lived in Munich for four years and died in the same city in 1924, just three years before he had become famous.

His early work was highly influential, and his paintings were often reminiscent of the Dutch masters. He also exhibited his paintings in the London and New York galleries, as well as in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His work was highly admired, and in 1888, he was able to sell several works to earn money to travel. However, Harnett's personal and professional life were not a success, and he spent a year and a half working as a table silver engraver.

William Michael Harnett's career as an artist was short-lived. The artist's career was a struggle because of his rheumatism, and the quality of his work suffered. His work was followed by many other artists in his day, including John Haberle, Otis Kaye, and Jefferson David Chalfant. After his death in New York City, his paintings were collected by Harvard University.

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