The Isabella Steward Gardner Museum is opening an exhibition this fall called “Henry James and the American Painting,” which explores the novelist’s connection to visual art and Isabella Stewart Gardner, according to a press release.
James is best known for his books “Portrait of a Lady” (1880), “Washington Square” (1880), and the “Wings of a Dove” (1902). He was part of a creative circle of writers and artists in the late 1800s that circulated between salons and studios in Boston, Florence, London, and Rome.
The exhibition focuses largely on portraits, fitting in that James used the word “portrait” in three book titles in less than a decade. The exhibition highlights a portrait of James by John Singer Sargent, as well as portraits of other historical figures that inspired characters in James’s most famous books.
“Isabella Stewart Gardner’s bold vision for the Museum as an artistic incubator where all disciplines of art inform and inspire each other—from visual art to dance, literature, music, and the spoken word – is as relevant as ever in today’s fluid, multi-faceted culture,” said Peggy Fogelman, the Museum’s Norma Jean Calderwood director, according to the press release. “In many ways, it all began in those grand salons with Gardner, James, Sargent, and Whistler.”
The exhibition originated at the Morgan Library and Museum and includes over 50 oil paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs, manuscripts, letters, and printed books compiled from 24 museums and private collections in the US, Great Britain, and Ireland. The exhibition at the Gardner Museum will highlight James’s relationship with Gardner and their circle of mutual friends through archival objects and correspondence from the Museum Collection.
Isabella Stewart Gardner is known for her museum, which features a renowned collection of art and rare books that show a glimpse into the lives and inspirations into this creative circle of artists and writers. Her museum is known for its paintings and artworks, but according to consulting curator Casey Riley, Isabella’s first serious acquisitions were in fact books.
“She herself was an avid reader who understood that words could paint vivid images in one’s mind,” Riley said about Gardner, according to the press release. “A strong and complex woman who sometimes followed—and sometimes flouted—social conventions, she had much in common with the most memorable of James’s heroines.”
The exhibition will go on view from Oct. 19 and will be open until Jan. 21 of 2018.