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Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton
Artist
Edward Harrison May, 1824 - 1887
Sitter
Edith Newbold Jones Wharton, 24 Jan 1862 - 11 Aug 1937
Date
1870
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 73 x 60.3 x 3.8cm (28 3/4 x 23 3/4 x 1 1/2")
Frame: 89.5 x 71.1 x 7.6cm (35 1/4 x 28 x 3")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; This portrait was adopted by members of the National Portrait Gallery Commission in honor of Dan Okrent, chairman, 2004–8.
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.82.136
Exhibition Label
Before embarking on her celebrated writing career, Edith Newbold Jones Wharton led a privileged life as a member of New York society. Edward Harrison May, a British-born artist working in Paris, painted her portrait during an extensive family sojourn in Europe. Wharton, who would become famous for her critical depictions of the New York upper class, as in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Age of Innocence, was strongly influenced by these European trips of her youth. As an adult she chose to spend much of her life abroad, forming friendships with other American expatriates, such as Henry James. Despite Wharton's cheerful demeanor in this portrait, she would later chronicle the frustrations of her childhood. Yet it was during this time that she came to enjoy "making up," occupying the fictional worlds she would write about as an adult.
Provenance
The sitter’s parents; the sitter; bequest to her niece Mrs. Beatrix Farrand, Bar Harbor Maine; sitter’s godson Colin Clark, England, [son of Kenneth Clark];(Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, Los Angeles); purchased 1982 NPG
Letter from Jacob Zeitlin to Robert G. Stewart, 12 July 1982. Whatron stipulated in her will [1937] that her niece give the portrait tot Kenneth Clark’s son, her godson Colin. A photograph at Yale University, Beinecke Library, documents the portrait in her parents’ house in Newport, Rhode Island. See also correspondence with Erica Donnis, Curator of Collections, The Mount, Lenox, Mass. NPG curatorial file.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Exhibition
American Origins
On View
NPG, East Gallery 131