Henry James

Henry James
Edith Wharton first met Henry James in the late 1880s, but they did not become friends until after 1900. He was a famous author nearing the end of his brilliant career but with the masterpieces of his last period yet to come. She was at the beginning of hers. In 1900 Wharton sent James a copy of her story "The Line of Least Resistance"; he replied with praise for the story, followed by detailed criticism, which she found devastating. In time, however, she learned to accept criticism as one professional to another, and James became a valued literary adviser. Wharton overcame her shyness with James, having discovered that she could talk to him with ease "of the things we both cared about; while he, always so helpful and hospitable to younger writers, at once used his magical faculty of drawing out his interlocutor's inmost self. Perhaps it was our common sense of fun that first brought out our understanding." Their relationship was complex and close. James was one of the few who knew about Wharton's affair with Morton Fullerton. Edith Wharton arranged for Jacques-Émile Blanche to paint this portrait of James while he was staying with her in Paris in 1908.

Henry James 1843-1916
Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942)
Oil on canvas, 1908
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C.
Bequest of Mrs. Katherine Dexter McCormick

NEXT portrait

BACK to "Edith Wharton's World"

Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home