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    The Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection

    CHARLES ALFRED MEURER (American, 1865-1955)

    Still Life with "Times Star", 1904
    Oil on canvas
    27-1/2 x 23-1/4 inches (69.9 x 59.1 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right just above the table leg: CA Meurer 1904

    Private collection, Cincinnati, Ohio;
    Wolf's Auction Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, September 16,1989, lot 141;
    Purchased from Kenneth Lux, New York, June 20, 1991 (label verso).

    The last of the great nineteenth-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. In 1889, Meurer debuted his editorial sanctum, a still-life portrait of Adolph Ochs, editor of the Chattanooga Daily Times. Its success led eventually to this masterful painting in the Buchanan collection, the 1904 Still Life with Times-Star, commemorating then Secretary of War William Howard Taft.

    Like Meurer, Taft was a Cincinnati man, born there in 1857 to a prominent political family and throughout his lifetime returning frequently to his Ohio roots. A graduate of Yale College, Taft attended the Cincinnati Law School and helped pay for tuition by writing for the local newspaper, The Cincinnati Commercial. His professional trajectory moved at lightning speed: after holding a number of legal jobs in the city during the early 1880s, he was appointed a judge to the Ohio Superior Court in 1887, U.S. Solicitor General in 1890, and a judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1891. While completing this judgeship, he also served as a dean and professor of constitutional law at the University of Cincinnati, where he was respected for his brilliant antitrust briefs. In 1900, President William McKinley tapped Taft as Governor-General of the Philippines, a position which allowed him to advocate for free trade and education, and in 1904 newly elected President Theodore Roosevelt, also admiring Taft's progressive Republican platform, elevated him to Secretary of War. The lawyer-turned-statesman from Cincinnati continued in politics for another three decades, building an illustrious resume, with many superlatives: for example, Taft was the only man in history to assume the roles of both U.S. President, 1908-1912, and Supreme Court Chief Justice, 1921-1930. Equally sensational, he bore the distinction of being the heaviest of the Presidents, in his young adulthood already weighing over 300 pounds.

    Painted in 1904, the year Taft became Secretary of War, Still Life with Times-Star functions as a composite portrait of these two famous Cincinnati men, artist Meurer and politician Taft. Here, Meurer references his own German heritage - and the large turn-of-the-century German immigrant population in Cincinnati - through certain objects, which frequent others of his paintings: a ceramic stein with pewter lid, Bohemian wine goblet, and Continental carved table. To this assemblage, he adds his two signature emblems, a burning cigar and paper currency. These objects, and others, assume even deeper meaning when interpreted with the painting's primary subject, Taft, whose image emblazons the cover of the Cincinnati Times-Star draped over the edge of the table. Headlines on the front page, dated February 22, 1904, indicate that the Secretary of War, returning home to Cincinnati, would be the guest of honor with President Roosevelt at a banquet at the St. Nicholas and that he had attended a reception at the residence of his brother Charles P. Taft. The Times-Star clearly signifies Taft: he himself had written for a Cincinnati newspaper during the late 1870s, and his brother Charles owned the Times-Star in 1904. Behind the newspaper, a collection of books also points to Taft, with his Ohio background and fame as an international spokesman and legal writer: spines are embossed with the titles Ohio Sports and Spanish & American War and with the author Taft. Meurer's inclusion of wine and soda biscuits, common still-life tropes, suggests Taft's notorious corpulence. According to the art historian Alfred Frankenstein, the editorial sanctum equated books with authority and money with respectability: in Still Life with Times-Star, Meurer and Taft together convey these qualities in spades.

    Condition Report*: Relined on newer stretcher bars. Paint surface intact. Under UV examination there is evidence of minor restoration,confined largely to perimeter inpaint. There is a slender line of inpaint along the right and left edges where the canvas had rubbed against the stretcher bar prior to relining. Similar restorations along the top right edge. Otherwise there are only a few areas of strengthening in the impasto highlights along the left fold of the newspaper, and a nickel-sized restoration just left of the newspaper photo of Taft.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2009
    10th-11th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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