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Columns at museum entrance

J. D. Salinger, 1919-2010

February 1, 2010

Portrait of J.D. Salinger by Robert Vickrey, now on view

Painted portrait of J.D. Salinger
J. D. Salinger by Robert Vickrey, 1961, tempera on board; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine

"A lot of people, especially this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I'm going to apply myself when I go back to school next September.  It's such a stupid question, in my opinion.  I mean how do you know what you're going to do till you do it?  The answer is, you don't.  I think I am, but how do I know?  I swear it's a stupid question."

—Holden Caulfield

Jerome David Salinger had one of the great successes of all time with The Catcher in the Rye (1951). He then vanished, publishing only a few collections of short stories and emerging only to sue people who attempted to write about him; his last publication was in 1965. Yet Catcher in the Rye remains a classic. Its teenaged narrator Holden Caulfield’s account of a weekend in Manhattan continues to speak to disaffected adolescents kicking against the “phonies.” It has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide and is still occasionally banned by education administrators who fear its corrupting impact on alienated youth.

Here, in a way that Salinger (and Caulfield) would have appreciated, artist Robert Vickery interprets the book’s title literally and paints the author against an amber wave of grain. The portrait was created for the September 15, 1961, edition of Time magazine.

Salinger portrait in the Portrait Gallery

 

Tags:  Biography