The Mentor

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John La Farge (1835–1910)
Henry James, 1862
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Century Association, New York
Photography by John Bigelow Taylor

La Farge painted this portrait of James in Newport, Rhode Island, when Henry was still in his teens. His relationship with the older artist set the tone for James’s early novel Roderick Hudson. La Farge had come to study with William Morris Hunt, with whom William James also studied. La Farge had lived in France and knew the work of writers such as Sainte-Beuve, Baudelaire, and Flaubert. James wrote: “He revealed to us Balzac. . . . To reread, even after long years, the introductory pages of Eugenie Grandet . . . is to see my initiator’s youthful face, so irregular but so re ned, look out at me between the lines as through prison bars.”