The Paris Review

“Henry James and American Painting” at the Morgan Library

James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne, Blue and Silver: Battersea Reach, 1872–78, oil on canvas. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

The Morgan Library is the perfect place to muse on Henry James: John Pierpont Morgan’s scholarly,” curated by Colm Tóibín and Declan Kiely and on view for another week and a half. It’s possible that the Morgan’s show on James’s relationship with expatriate painters won’t convert the uninitiated, but it will undoubtedly serve as a pilgrimage stop for the faithful. There are some titillating letters from James to a probable lover, and who doesn’t love a Whistler? I heard my favorite lines from , about the clink of unseen bracelets, when I paused in front of Frank Duveneck’s portrait of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck: “Her smile was natural and dim; her hat not extravagant; he had only perhaps a sense of the clink, beneath her fine black sleeves, of more gold bracelets and bangles than he had ever seen a lady wear.” It was the wrong novel: Boott Duveneck was apparently the inspiration for the uncanny Pansy Osmond in , not for the sophisticated Madame de Vionnet of . But the Jamesian perfume is so pervasive you’re bound to hear all manner of rustles and breaths—that is, until you exit onto Madison Avenue.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review4 min read
Re-Imagining Masculinity
“No homo,” says the boy, barely visible in the room’s fading light, as he cradles my foot in his palms. He is kneeling before me—this 6’2” JV basketball second stringer—as I sit on his bed, my feet hovering above the shag. His head is bent so that th
The Paris Review2 min read
Mystical, Squishy, Distinctly Unsettling
A list of words that could describe Hyman Bloom’s work: loud, abstract, mystical, colorful, squishy, fleshy, grotesque, distinctly unsettling. But Bloom aimed to communicate beyond language. When thirteen of his paintings appeared in a group show at
The Paris Review4 min read
Staff Picks: Bunnies, Berries, and Baffling Omissions
Mona Awad. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe. Mona Awad’s prose is dangerous. She crafts beautiful meals laced with poison; her new novel Bunny is a satirical glimpse into elite education that transforms a college into the deep, dark woods of a fairy tale. Set