William Michael Harnett (American, 1848–1892)
After the Hunt, 1885
Oil on canvas
71 ½ x 48 ½ in. (181.6 x 123.2 cm)

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In his interpretation of the heraldic huntsman’s genre, the Irish-American artist William Michael Harnett offers a large variety of sportsman’s gear: a well-crafted rifle, an antique sword, a brass horn, a crumpled hat, a horseshoe, and best of all, what appears to be a liquor flask hung on a barn door fitted with ornate, rusting brass hinges. The picture includes bounty as well: various upturned game birds and a handsome dead hare. Rendered life-size, almost 6 feet high, and with uncanny attention to textures and material surfaces, After the Hunt is reminiscent of Dutch and Flemish works from the 17th century. Rife with masculine, vernacular, even nostalgic American associations, this type of still life became increasingly popular in the mid-century and found particular resonance with affluent male businessmen of the East Coast, many of whom hunted or fished at expensive resorts in Upstate New York or parts of New England. This particular painting hung in Theodore Stewart’s Warren Street Bar in New York City, where it served as a sobriety test for inebriated patrons who were asked by the saloon’s owner to determine whether what they were looking at was real–or not.

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