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    Efthimios MariakakisArt History Essay

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    Cohen John Peto, Elihu Vedder, and William Harnett are three very important and unique artists. The three artists are American artists and there respective works can be found throughout the country in various museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. John Peto was a still life painter who excelled in rack type paintings- a vertical panel with ribbons tightly stretched and tacked, into which are tucked various memorabilia such as news paper clippings, addressed envelopes, photographs, theater tickets pamphlets and so on (Craven 366). John Peto was also a master of the deception art known as Trompe l oeil. Trompe l oeil is defined as a french cliche meaning to trick the eye(Cohen 167). Peto utilized this tool in many of his pieces: the objects in his works looked so real that they appeared real to the touch. He sought to put down precisely what he saw without embellishment, choosing still-life subjects from 19th-century American Mariakakis 2life.

    These included weathered wood panels, lanterns, and scraps of paper. His Office Board (Metropolitan Mus.) is a characteristic work. The numerous rack paintings, created by Peto were often commissioned works containing clues to the identity of the original ownersin the simulated papers and other objects stuck between the tapes. In Office Board, an oil on canvas painting created in 1885, a post card, and a letter are clearly addressed to Dr. Goldberg, a chiropodist in Philadelphia and neighbor of Peto (Metropolitan Mus.).

    The Dr. may well have asked Peto to make the painting. Among other objects is a simulated photo, perhaps of Goldberg. Peto does an exceptional job of convincing the observer of the paintings realness. If approached, it seems as though the observer can reach out and grab the objects. Although Peto s works were often confused with Harnett s, the style is quite different. Unlike Harnett, Peto strove more for decorative effects of color and texture and less for imitation destined to fool the eye of the observer (Metropolitan Mus.). Like Peto, William Harnett utilized Trompe l oeil. He too was a still life painter. His still lifes have

    Mariakakis 3been compared with the large photographic still lifes produced about 1860 by Adolphe Braun, an Alsatian, in which a variety of game and hunting paraphernalia is hung in a cluster upon a board wall-clearly anticipating Harnett s After the Hunt (Craven 365). In The Artists Letter Rack, an oil on canvas painting created in 1879, Harnett has deliberately tried for an effect of flatness rather than the solid three dimensional quality of many of his later works.

    The pink tape forming the rack allows just enough give to hold in place some letters, postcards, and a few scraps of paper bearing puzzling inscriptions. The grain of the wood boards forming the background has been carefully delineated and the slight shadows cast by the edges of the objects have been subtly expressed (Metropolitan Mus.). According to an assistant curator at the museum, Many of the inscription remained unexplained, but a few clues suggest that the painting was commissioned by some member of the Philadelphia firm of C C Peirson and Sons, a firm which was responsible for the dealing of wool and hides.

    The names of the other businessmen are hinted at, all probably in wool and leather trades as well Mariakakis 4 Elihu Vedder was a visionary with a penchant for mysticism. A native of New York city who would spend most of his life as an expatriate in Europe, Vedder went first to Paris to study in 1856, but soon discovered he preferred the life and the art world of Italy, and settled in Florence (Craven 355). His painting Cypress and Poppies which was an oil on canvas painting created between 1880-1890, was one of his more perceptual paintings. The scene depicts the countryside near Villa-Strohl-Fern (Metropolitan Mus.). The soft atmosphere and splashes of jewel like color reflect the influence of Macchiaioli,a group of contemporary Italian painters who eschewed academic practice and drew inspiration from the plein-air works of such French artists as Gustave Courbet (Metropolitan Mus.).

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