Charles Alfred Meurer (1865 - 1955)
Still Life with Money, Pipe and Letters, 1914
Oil on canvas
11 x 14 inches
Signed and dated at lower right: CA Meurer / 1914
Christie’s, New York, March 11, 2004, lot 11
Private Collection, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Brock and Co., Concord, Massachusetts, 2008
Born into an American family living in German, Charles Meurer became the last living link to the heyday of the trompe l'oeil painting style. He settled in Terrace Park, Ohio, and maintained a studio there for many years. Many of his trompe l'oeil works have reproductions of money, and he has also done painting with hunting motifs that are similar to work by Michael Harnett, the man credited with founding the trompe l'oeil style in America.
Meurer was raised in Clarksville, Tennessee. As a young artist, he was commissioned by Adolph Ochs, editor of the Chattanooga Times newspaper, to paint a still life incorporating the front page of the paper with a figure surrounded by books and other objects of editorial wisdom. Meurer used this theme in many subsequent paintings.
Meurer studied art with Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati and then went to Paris and Lyon for further study in France. In 1886, according to his telling, he was converted to trompe l'oeil painting when he saw the work of Michael Harnett at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1886. He also recalled seeing rack pictures of John Frederick Peto in Cincinnati art galleries in the 1890s.
The present work is an excellent example of Meurer’s mature style. The composition is a deceptively simple on depicting paper and coin currency casually piled on the edge of a table along with books, stamped envelops and burnt matches and a glazed pipe. Meurer’s intent to “fool the eye” is accomplished with precisely rendered surfaces, along with objects that seem to extend beyond the frame and into the viewer’s space. The pile of paper money that appears in danger of sliding off the table and on the floor tempts the viewer to reach in and tidy up, all the greater reminder of the artist’s skill.