Henry James and American Painting

June 9 through September 10, 2017

Henry James’s perceptiveness about American and British upper‐ and middle‐class social and artistic life was unmatched by any other writer of his generation. Evoking the colors and textures, the shapes and tastes, and the blend of physical and psychological impressions of the turn of the century, his fiction reflects a painterly sensibility deeply rooted in a life-long, often passionate, relationship with the visual arts. Henry James and American Painting is the first museum exhibition to explore the fascinating intersection between James’s friendships with expatriate American artists and his literary work.

While James decided early on that the pictorial arts were not to be the arena in which he would work, throughout his life he developed close and lasting friendships with many of the most important American artists of his era. Never assembled in this context before, some sixty works—paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, photographs, manuscripts, letters and printed books from two dozen museums in the United States and Great Britain—will be exhibited together at the Morgan to highlight these connections. Works by some of the leading artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, all of them in James’s circle, will be represented, among them, John La Farge, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler. James drew upon his friendships with artists and his knowledge of their production in much of his most important fiction. Henry James and American Panting encourages an exploration of the ways that these relationships helped motivate and mentor his literary education, and form his artistic and literary tastes.

Henry James and American Painting is made possible with a lead gift from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, major funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, generous support from Karen H. Bechtel, the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, and the Franklin Jasper Walls Lecture Fund, and assistance from Barbara G. Fleischman and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

JL GreeneHenry Luce Foundation

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Henry James, 1913, Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, London; Bequeathed by Henry James, 1916. NPG 1767​.