Joseph Decker (1853–1924)
Joseph Decker was one of the nineteenth century’s most original artists, who enlivened the genre of still-life painting with his incredible illusionism and distinctive perspective. William Gerdts, the authority on American still-life painting, claims Decker as “one of the finest still-life painters in America in the late nineteenth century.” Today, Decker’s paintings continue to astonish, striking viewers with the immediacy of a photograph and the physicality of a sculpture.
Born in Würtemburg, Germany, Decker moved to the United States at the age of fourteen. He first worked as a commercial artist, designing signs for food trucks and sporting clubs, and acquired his technical polish at the National Academy of Design and the Munich Academy. His early work combines the crispness and immediacy of visual advertising with the richness and robustness of the Munich School. By blending the properties of commercial advertising with those of high art, Decker created a style that was completely new—and completely ahead of its time. Just as Pop artists would appropriate the subjects of popular imagery in the twentieth century, Decker appropriated its forms in the nineteenth.
Decker exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Brooklyn Art Association, the Society of American Artists, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Today his work is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.