The exhibition includes approximately 20 paintings and drawings on loan from museums from across the country as well as the NBMAA’s own Haberle paintings. In addition to the works of art, the NBMAA has borrowed a myraid of Haberle’s personal effects and letters (many reproduced in the paintings themselves) from the Haberle Family. John Haberle: American Master of Illusion will travel to the Brandywine River Museum, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, from April 17, 2010 through July 11, 2010 and the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine from Sept. 18, 2010 through Dec. 12, 2010.
Haberle’s precise, trompe l’oeil paintings were well recognized about a decade during his life. Afterward, he faded into obscurity but was rediscovered in 1949 by American scholar Alfred Frankenstein. Despite the fleeting fame during his lifetime, today Haberle is considered one of the most accomplished American trompe l’oeil painters. His work combines a masterful technique with sly, witty historical and personal reference to American life from 1870 to 1910.
In the NBMAA’s Time and Eternity, Haberle juxtaposes objects of the temporal world, such as a pocket watch, playing cards and rosary beads with a newspaper clipping that references Robert G. Ingersoll, a lecturer at the time who was tried for blasphemy because of his unorthodox views on slavery and the Bible. The painting, though seemingly straight-forward, subtly illustrates the passing of time and the gambles that we take with our lives, while simultaneously making reference to the political issues of the time. The slight but ingenious details make each of Haberle’s paintings exceedingly complex.
Supplementing the exhibit is a catalog created by art historian and curator Gertrude Grace Sill entitled John Haberle: American Master of Illusion. Both the exhibition and catalog will be the first complete study devoted to Haberle. The catalog is based primarily on new research gathered by Sill through forgotten Haberle archives and interviews with Haberle descendents.