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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

9. Social

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Activities: Author Activities

Edith Wharton - Selected Archive Items

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[2572] James Abbot McNeil Whistler, Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Theodore Duret (1883),
courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wolfe Fund, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, 1919. (13.20) Photograph © 1984 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
French art critic and collector Theodore Duret is shown in full evening dress. This painting was ranked by many as the best portrait of Duret by any of the great realist artists of the period. Like novelists Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Kate Chopin, Whistler is interested in depicting the inner lives as well as the opulence of the upper classes. Ezra Pound's poem "To Whistler, American" lauds the artist.

[3636] Edward Harrison May, Edith Jones (1870),
courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
British painter Edward Harrison May painted portraits for affluent Americans and Europeans. Edith (Jones) Wharton was born into a prominent New York City family; much of her fiction paints the upper class in an ironic light.

[3643] Edward Harrison May, Edith Jones at Age Nineteen (1891),
courtesy of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City.
Edith Jones made her debut in New York society at the age of seventeen and a few years later married the wealthy Edward Wharton of Boston. Her fiction details the confining traditions of upper-class life.

[4621] Peter Powell, Edith Wharton (c. 1910),
courtesy of the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Photo of Wharton in a fur-collared coat. Wharton wrote a number of novels that depict upper-class society. She was particularly concerned about the status of women.

[4649] Anonymous, Edith Wharton with a Dog on Her Lap, Henry James, Chauffeur Charles Cook, and Teddy Wharton, Holding Two Dogs (c. 1904),
courtesy of Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.
Wharton and James enjoyed a great friendship. Both were from prominent families, and both lived outside of the United States.

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