Skip to main content

As a public health precaution, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will temporarily close to the public starting Saturday, March 14 until further notice. Please continue to check back frequently at or for updates. In the meantime, please explore our website, resource materials and online exhibitions. 

Thomas Clayton Wolfe

Thomas Clayton Wolfe
Usage Conditions Apply
Soss Efram Melik, 1914 - 2003
Thomas Clayton Wolfe, 3 Oct 1900 - 15 Sep 1938
Charcoal on paper
Other: 63.5 x 48.2cm (25 x 19")
Frame: 78.7 x 63.5cm (31 x 25")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution Conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Object number
Exhibition Label
Journalist Alexander Woollcott urged his friend Soss Melik to make portraits commemorating American writers, and he helped to arrange a sitting with Thomas Wolfe, the renowned author of Look Homeward, Angel. Melik later wrote that "since [Wolfe] seemed to rest his massive shoulders and arms by holding on to his suspenders . . . it was a logical and characteristic gesture." At the time the portrait was made, the young writer was agitated over his professional separation from longtime friend and editor Maxwell Perkins, who had helped wrestle his voluminous manuExhibition scripts into publishable form. Melik captured the intensity and emotional energy of this giant of a man, who later that year would suffer a fatal illness. Although Melik's deft charcoal sketching does not suggest modern style, the candor of the sitter's informal pose and defiant attitude seems quite contemporary.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection