Brock & Co.

Hananiah Harari (1912 - 2000)
Into the Past, 1941
Oil on canvas
15 1⁄4 x 13 inches
Signed at lower left: Harari
Signed and inscribed verso: Into the Past. 1941 / Hananiah Harari
Dutch style frame
The artist
Richard York Gallery, New York, New York, until 2003
Private Collection, Massachusetts
The National Academy of Design, New York, Annual Exhibition, 1941, no. 67.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, American Realists and Magic Realists, 1943, no. 119.

The Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, The Art of Hananiah Harari: a Personal Synthesis, 1997, no. 30.

Hananiah Harari was an artist of great whit and whimsy, and alternated between abstraction and trompe l’oeil realism in his unusual career. A part of the Works Progress Administration projects, he also joined the vanguard group, the Abstract American Artists. Yet despite Harari’s interest in Abstraction, he also felt an equal but opposite pull towards realism.

Harari became drawn to the trompe l’oeil paintings by the 19th century American artist William Harnett (1848– 1892), a style of painting that had been largely forgotten or undervalued by the 1930s. He began to paint carefully com- posed still-lifes twice, once in his abstract mode, and once in the trompe l’oeil mode, an unusual binary system of painting. Defending his use of two seemingly opposite styles, Harari said “working in two styles is refreshing—for the artist, if perhaps not for the critic. It is an aid in preserving the artist’s sense of humor.” (Quoted in Gail Stavitsky, The Art of Hananiah Harari [1997], 13.)

According to Harari’s artist statement in the catalogue for American Realists and Magic Realists (1943) at the Museum of Modern Art, “...employing the close-up view reveals the delights inherent in flyspecks, dust, cracks...I like best to paint early Americana, because they mean so much to me in every way.” Into the Past was included in that landmark exhibition, and offers a witty collection of objects to pique the viewer’s memory and delight. A frame within a frame, branches of bittersweet, a daguerreotype, old postcards, and peppermint candy evoke another era that was already in the past when Harari painted it in 1941.