• Mark Leithauser, Brushwork, 1993, oil on panel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Hakuta Family, 2010.42, © Mark Leithauser

Mark Leithauser blends elements of the real and the imaginary in his paintings, etchings, and silverpoints. For Brushwork, he used a technique called trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) to make a two-dimensional surface appear three-dimensional. The piece rewards close viewing: the engaging realism of the brushes and etching tools leads viewers to the postage stamp – like squares. The square at left shows a detail of Titian’s Danae, from 1545. The square at right re-creates a nineteenth-century advertisement for printmaking tools, with a woman holding an adjustable lithographic crayon. The frayed brush bristles and the wrinkled photos show wear and use, and the missing set of tools suggests they were removed by the artist to make this painting. Leithauser commissioned the frame for this work from an independent craftsman, done in the style of a Greene and Greene frame he saw at the Gamble House in Pasadena, California. The Greene brothers, Charles and Henry, founded an architectural firm in 1894 known for American Arts and Crafts design, and the Gamble House was one of their commissions.
I am certainly not a writer, but my work has that same attention to detail, and the long stretches of time it takes to make something. It’s like writing, in that there is draft after draft — and then the joy of the completed puzzle, and often a visual pun.” The artist, quoted in an interview with Lynne Bahr, Drawings Basics: Art for Writing, 2008
13 5810 34 in. (34.627.2 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Hakuta Family

Mediums Description
oil on panel
  • Object – art tool – artist's brush
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

More Artworks from the Collection