Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

In 1881, when Edith was nineteen, she was painted in London by Edward Harrison May. He captured her keen intelligence, and at the same time her fashionable dress, with its narrow waist, puffed sleeves, and bustle--showing her at once the debutante and also the keen observer who would later become the brilliant writer. Her father had died the year the portrait was painted, and Edith and her mother, who had been living in Cannes, returned to New York to reside on Twenty-fifth Street, just off of Fifth Avenue. Edith married Edward ("Teddy") Wharton at this house four years later. Wharton gave this portrait to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, to which she was elected in 1930. Her sister-in-law Mary Cadwalader Jones wrote to the academy that Mrs. Wharton, who had lived in France since 1912, "felt deeply the honour lately given her," and she would like to have her portrait "in New York, where after all she `belongs.'"

Edith Jones 1862-1937
Edward Harrison May (1824-1887)
Oil on canvas, 1881
The American Academy of Arts and Letters,
New York City;
gift of Edith Wharton, 1930

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