(1856 - 1933)

John Haberle was born in 1856 in New Haven, Connecticut, to Swiss immigrant parents.

At age fourteen he left school to apprentice for a bookplate designer and engraver, where he learned the precision of hand-and-eye coordination necessary for detailed representation. He also worked at Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History, painting display cases and doing odd jobs. In 1884 he entered the National Academy of Design in New York, where he saw trompe l'oeil painting for the first time. Haberle was a skilled draftsman, and this, coupled with his experience as an engraver, prepared him for a career as illusionistic painter.

Haberle exhibited Imitation at the National Academy in 1887, well aware of Harnett's arrest the year before, and although warned by the government, he continued to paint currency. He tried other everyday subjects, including peanuts and school slates.

By 1893, Haberle's eyesight had begun to fade, and with it the precision necessary for highly illusionistic work. He continued to paint, but in a freer, less detailed style.

Haberle died in 1933. His paintings were virtually unknown until 1948, when art historian Alfred Frankenstein discovered thirty of his works. Frankenstein proclaimed Haberle the "greatest American master of the [trompe l'oeil] tradition," calling him "poles apart from Harnett's sumptuosity, careful balances, and well-modeled volumes...and equally far from Peto's sensitivity in the matter of color." Frankenstein recognized something different in Haberle's work: a wit and imagination unmatched by the other artists.

Contributed by Anonymous
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