Magazine article USA TODAY

A NOVEL VIEW OF WORDS AND THEIR ARTISTIC IMPACT: An Exploration of Henry James' Literary Works and the Visual Arts

Magazine article USA TODAY

A NOVEL VIEW OF WORDS AND THEIR ARTISTIC IMPACT: An Exploration of Henry James' Literary Works and the Visual Arts

Article excerpt

"HENRY JAMES and American Painting," an exhibition that is the first to explore the relationship between James' literary works and the visual arts, is on view through Jan. 21, 2018, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Mass. It offers a fresh perspective on the master novelist and the significance of his friendships with American artists John La Farge, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler, as well as Gardner, an esteemed arts patron.

The exhibition includes a rich selection of more than 50 oil paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs, manuscripts, letters, and printed books from 24 museums and private collections in the U.S., Great Britain, and Ireland. ISGM also is paying special attention to James' enduring relationship with Gardner and their circle of mutual friends through archival objects and correspondence drawn from the museum's collection.

James, who had a distinctive, almost painterly style of writing, is best known for his books, The Portrait of a Lady (1880), Washington Square (1880), The Wings of the Dove (1902), and The Ambassadors (1903). He was part of a creative circle of writers and artists in the late 1800s who were on the move between grand salons and artists' studios in Boston, Florence, London, and Rome. A woman ahead of her time, Gardner was an influential part of the group, and her museum vividly evokes one city that captivated all of them: Venice.

Gardner and her husband Jack spent considerable time in Venice, where they rented the lavish Palazzo Barbara on the Grand Canal from friends and fellow Boston expatriates Daniel and Ariana Curtis. In 1892. James was a guest of the Gardners, and Palazzo Barbara became the model for the palace in The Wings of the Dove. Sargent's "An Interior in Venice" (1889) showcases the palazzo's grand salon and is part of the exhibition. …

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