Books and Pottery Vase (Primary Title)

Claude Raguet Hirst, American, 1855 - 1942 (Artist)

early 1900s
oil on canvas
United States
Unframed: 7 1/8 × 10 in. (18.1 × 25.4 cm)
Framed: 13 1/16 × 16 × 2 in. (33.18 × 40.64 × 5.08 cm)

At the turn of the 20th century, Hirst’s meticulous still lifes held such public appeal that, as one critic wrote, “they are apt to be hanging crooked…as people take them down so many times to hold them and look at them.” While touching art in galleries was discouraged then, as it is now, close examination was precisely the response that Hirst sought. The painter was one of a handful of Gilded Age artists – and the only female (her first name was shortened from Claudine) – to gain critical acclaim for illusionary imagery.

In this painting, Hirst presents an arrangement of old books and a ceramic pot with Asian motifs. She draws the eye to a brightly lid, opened book rendered with such precision that words can be read from its pages. The worn volume was one of the artist’s favorites: a 1795 English translation of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s romantic novel, Paul and Virginia. The painting’s frame – contemporary with the canvas but not original – offers its own visual surprise. The beautiful curling grain is actually painted. One trompe-l’oeil triumph supports the other.

not signed
On verso: bottom center: Eli Wilner tag
On verso: bottom left: C.R. Hirst "Books and Pottery Vase"
Collectors' Circle Art Purchase Fund
The Allegorical Table, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, Va., November 20, 1993 – January 9, 1994; William King Regional Art Center, Abingdon, Va., February 19 – April 10, 1994

Collectors' Circle Fund Purchases, 1965-1988, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., May 17 – June 19, 1988

Realities, Artmobile exhibition, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., September 1982 – June 1985

Realities, Immobile exhibition, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., September 1981 – May 1982

The Realist Tradition in American Painting, South Texas Artmobile, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., August 1976 – May 1977

Southern Sampler: American Paintings in Southern Museums, Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN, September 21 – October 31, 1975
Neal, Christine Craft, "Claude Raguet Hirst: Her [Still] Life Story," Woman's Art Journal (Spring 2002).

Neal, Christine Crafts, "'The Female Harnett': Claude Raguet Hirst," American Arts Quarterly (Summer 2001): 20-27.

Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Artists: From Early Indian Times to the Present (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1982).

Frankenstein, Alfred, After the Hunt: William Harnett and Other American Still Life Painters, 1870-1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969).

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.