Charles Alfred Meurer – American Artist & Tromp L’Oeil Artist

Charles Alfred Meurer (American, 1865 to 1955)

Cincinnati-based artist Charles Meurer painted in the tradition of the American trompe l’oeil masters, William Michael Harnett and John Frederick Peto. The artist traced his fascination with trompe l’oeil painting to seeing Harnett’s still lifes at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1886 and other works by Peto in Cincinnati art galleries in the 1890s. Born in Germany in 1865 to American parents, Meurer was raised in Tennessee. As a young artist Meurer received a pivotal commission from Adolph Ochs, editor of the Chattanooga Times, to paint a still life incorporating the front page of the paper along with books and other objects relating to the newspaper industry. Successful with this commission, Meurer continued to elaborate on this theme. The artist included paper currency in many of his still lifes.

Information courtesy of Skinner, Inc., January 2010.

The last of the great 19th century trompe l’oeil painters, Cincinnati based Charles Meurer invented the “editorial sanctum,” a genre of still life in which the objects, notably the front page of a newspaper, celebrate a particular individual (A. Frankenstein, After the Hunt: William Michael Harnett and Other Still Life Painters, 1870-1900, 2nd ed., Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968, pp. 154-155).

Born in Germany and raised in Tennessee, Meurer studied with Franck Duveneck at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in the mid-1880s, and pursued additional training at the Academie Julian and the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In terms of facture, his paintings bear some mark of his tight academic training in Paris, although in terms of subject matter, his work is much more Germanic in flavor. Meurer’s encounter with William Harnett’s trompe l’oeil paintings at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1886 and with John Peto’s rack paintings in Cincinnati art galleries profoundly shaped his career. By the mid-1890s he had begun to specialize in still lifes of gentlemen’s paraphernalia – beer steins, playing cards, letters, pipes, cigars, and currency – and his realistic reproduction of money, considered unlawful, frequently landed him in trouble with government officials.

Information courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries, June 2009.

Floral still lifes were one of Charles Meurer’s favored subject matters, aside from trompe-l’oeil and pastoral scenes. Meurer studied in Cincinnati under Frank Duveneck, and then in Paris and Lyon, France. He eventually settled in Terrace Park, OH.

Information Courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions, September, 2018.

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