THE MORGAN EXPLORES HENRY JAMES’S LIFELONG FASCINATION WITH THE VISUAL ARTS
Co-curated by Acclaimed Novelist Colm Tóibín
Henry James and American Painting
June 9 through September 10, 2017
In 1884, Henry James (1843–1916) wrote in The Art of Fiction:
The analogy between the art of the painter and the art of the novelist is, so far as I am able to see, complete. Their inspiration is the same, their process (allowing for the different quality of the vehicle), is the same, their success is the same. They may learn from each other, they may explain and sustain each other. Their cause is the same, and the honour of one is the honour of another.
Henry James and American Painting, opening at the Morgan Library & Museum on June 9, is the first exhibition to explore the author’s deep and lasting interest in the visual arts and their profound impact on the literature he produced. Offering a fresh perspective on the master novelist, the show reveals the importance of James’s friendships with American artists such as John La Farge, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler. While the author decided early on that the pictorial arts were not to be the arena in which he would work, the painterly quality of his writing has enthralled readers for over a century.
Co-curated by author Colm Tóibín, whose latest novel House of Names is published this month, and Declan Kiely, head of the museum’s Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, the exhibition includes a rich and eclectic selection of more than fifty paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, photographs, manuscripts, letters, and printed books from two dozen museums and private collections in the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland. Together they weave an evocative story of fascinating artistic intersections.
“With its acclaimed collections of art and literature, the Morgan is the perfect place for this exhibition,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the museum. “The visual arts were part of the bedrock on which Henry James built his house of fiction. He composed the most dramatic moments in his work as though they were framed, as though his characters were placed in light and shade as a painter might pose figures on a canvas.”
Selection of Highlights on View Hendrik Christian Andersen (1872–1940), Count Alberto Bevilacqua, 1899, painted terra-cotta. Lamb House (The National Trust). Cecilia Beaux (1855–1942), Henry James, 1911, charcoal on paper. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Alice Boughton (1865–1943), Henry James, 1905, platinum print. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. Alice Boughton (1865–1943), Henry James, 1906, gelatin silver print. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.; gift of Allan M. Price. Elizabeth Boott Duveneck (1846–1888), Villa Castellani, Bellosguardo, 1886, watercolor on paper. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D. C. Frank Duveneck (1848–1919), Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, 1888, oil on canvas. Cincinnati Art Museum; Gift of the artist, 1915