Editor's note: The Ogunquit Museum of American Art provided text and images to Resource Library for the following article. The text is by Ruth Greene-McNally, Collections Manager, Ogunquit Museum of American Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Ogunquit Museum of American Art directly through either this phone number or web address:



 

 

Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater

Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Strater Gallery

May 1 - October 31, 2017

 

Following the First World War, a "Lost Generation" of American artists came of age as expatriates in Europe. Prompted by favorable currency exchange rates and a growing disbelief in the American dream, the "Americans in Paris" moment had arrived and a rising Modernist movement influenced generations of artists and writers. Amid the historical milieu that included James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and others, Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater developed a friendship that revolved around a fervor for beauty, bold sport, and social activism. Together they embarked upon an artistic collaborative that signifies the lasting impact of an era. The materials presented in the installation trace a tumultuous relationship between two creative figures and identifies the possibilities and of paintings and limits of art and humanity in our time.


Henry Strater (1896-1987)
The Bridge at Andorra, Spain
1920
Oil on canvas
OMAA Permanent Collection #1960.5
Gift of the Artist, 1960
 
 
Though critics suggested that early in Hemingway's literary career he was a reporter only capable of writing directly from experience, five chapters from "in our time" depict bull fight scenes he never actually witnessed.
 
Strater, who studied at the Academia Real de San Fernando in Madrid had relayed his first-hand accounts of bull fights that later became the basis for Hemingway's graphic vignettes. Hemingway did not witness his first bull fight until 1925, the year after "in our time" was published.
 
Strater toured Spain between his first summer in Ogunquit in 1919 and his first encounter with Hemingway in Paris in 1922.
 
Andorra is a small, independent principality situated between Spain and France in the Pyrenees Mountains.
 
 
 
 
Henry Strater (1896-1987)
Profile of Hemingway
Oil on wood panel
1922
OMAA Permanent Collection #1988.1.326
Gift of the Estate of Henry Strater, 1988

When Strater painted the so-called "literary portrait" of Hemingway in Rapallo, Italy, the first of two companion oil portraits, Strater had recently shown "Nude with Fox Terrier" at the Salon d'Automne in Paris and Hemingway had just published his first work, "Three Stories and Ten Poems" in Chicago. Meanwhile, Hemingway was working on "in our time" for Three Mountains Press, Paris, published in 1924.
Hemingway thought the profile portrait made him "look too literary, like H. G. Wells." Strater obliged Hemingway by completing a second portrait enhancing his tough guy image. "I'll paint you the way you look boxing."
When Strater posed Hemingway by a window in morning light, the artistic collaborative proved fruitful to the author who consequently experimented with modernist nuance on the "color" of reality to enrich his own literary objectives.
Strater completed a third oil portrait of Hemingway in 1930 in Key West, which was used as the cover illustration for Carlos Baker's 1969 biography of Hemingway.
 
 
 
 

Henry Strater (1896-1987)
Portrait of Ernest Hemingway (The Boxer Portrait)
Oil on wood panel
1922
OMAA Permanent Collection #1958.15
Gift of the Artist
 
 
The second of two portrayals of Hemingway completed in Italy, "The Boxer Portrait" distinguishes their friendship bolstered by an affinity for bold sport that coursed through their artistic ambitions and associations with American and European literati and Avant-Garde artists.
A boxer in high school and college, Strater challenged Hemingway to a match on their second meeting when they put on "12-ounce [boxing] gloves in my studio for a protracted bout." Sparring partners for over ten years, Strater wrote that the black eye he gave Hemingway in the late 1920s increased the author's book sales by the thousands. The friendship faltered after Hemingway allowed an erroneous claim to Strater's marlin catch in Bimini to stand uncorrected.


 
Henry Strater
The Boxer Portrait
Woodcut frontispiece illustration
 
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
in our time
Book with illustration by Henry Strater
1924
Three Mountain Press, Paris
First Edition, 32pp.
Courtesy of Bromer Booksellers

Since its publication of 170 copies, Hemingway's 1924 collection of eighteen vignettes is a rarity in style with few extant copies. The volume is recognized as a major development in American literature and Modernism. As the title, in our time (lower case) approaches its centennial anniversary, Hemingway's themes of social, political, and economic upheaval bear relevance in our own time. Hemingway and American expatriates of the Lost Generation sought to express human suffering through art.
 
Strater met Hemingway in Paris in 1922 where he painted Portrait of Ernest Hemingway known as "The Boxer Portrait," the second of three portraits. The frontispiece illustration is based on Strater's "The Boxer Portrait."
 
A breakthrough in its time, the 1924 Paris edition - the author's second publication in his literary career - introduced Hemingway's "theory of omission" or "iceberg theory," in which crucial plot material, around which emotions or themes pivot, is superseded by scenes of stark brutality. The author's nuanced style, based on the premise to "show, not tell," influenced generations of writers and artists.
 
Hemingway's expanded, revised trade edition, In Our Time (capital letters) was published in 1925 in New York by Boni & Liveright Publishers.
 
 
 
 
 

Unidentified Photographer
Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater
with Black Marlin in Bimini
1935
Silver gelatin print on paper    
OMAA Permanent Collection
Gift of the Strater Family, 2013

Strater's friendship with Hemingway faltered following the fishing excursion captured in this image by an unidentified bystander. An error of omission, Hemingway allowed the photographer and onlookers to believe he had landed the 14 foot 4-inch black marlin in the Bahamas, when in reality Strater had caught the giant fish. Hemingway, who "liked to win at everything," according to Strater, never corrected the error and compounded the rift by portraying his lust for sport and contest in what is commonly understood as Hemingway's semi-autobiographical novella, The Old Man and the Sea.
 
 
 
(no image)
Henry Strater (1896-1987)
First Art School Drawing
1919
Charcoal on laid paper
OMAA Permanent Collection #1967.5
Gift of the Artist, 1967
 
In their early 20s, Strater and Hemingway shared common ambitions, which found expression in the arts, travel, and sports. As a student at Princeton University, Strater excelled in boxing, became active in social reform, and won a competition for editorship. In the same year that Hemingway first worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, Strater worked as a reporter for the Louisville Evening Post.
 
Strater left for France in 1917 to serve with the Red Cross and, like Hemingway, a Red Cross ambulance driver, he was wounded shortly after his deployment. Ordered home on leave, Strater sought further service in the Red Cross with the Belgian Army through the final weeks of the Great War.
 
Following the war, Strater attended the Academie Julian in Paris. The summer of 1919 brought Strater to Ogunquit for the first time to attend the Hamilton Easter Field School of Painting. Later that year he studied in New York under George Bridgman at the Art Students League. A legendary drawing instructor, Bridgman taught "constructive anatomy," a revolutionary approach to figure drawing in which the human form was composed of interlocking wedge shapes. While Strater's "First Art School Drawing" reveals a studied search for line and form, a less structured painterly style is evident in his portraits of Hemingway completed in 1922.

 

(no image)
Henry Strater (1896-1987)
Mount Z Above Rapallo
1922
Watercolor sketch
OMAA Permanent Collection #1988.1.281
Gift of Estate of the Artist, 1988
After WWI European Avant-Garde artists and American expatriates traveled to Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium.
 
"We were both in a fledgling state in our respective arts," Strater commented about his association with Hemingway in Rapallo, Italy. While Strater painted Hemmingway's portraits, "Ernest [was] working away on trimming his stories, eliminating trite adjectives, everlastingly condensing."
 
This watercolor sketch represents Strater's view of the cascading mountainside just outside the city limits of Rapallo. Despite his own interpretive presentation of reality, Hemingway criticized Strater's distorted mountains for "not looking like mountains" but he may have overlooked the artist's intention to portray the commanding presence of the Alps. The contours of Strater's mountains appear to zig-zag, enveloping residences along the mountainside, engulfing the village below. The title may reflect Strater's use of descriptive imagination as "Mount Z" is not identified on geographical or topographical maps of Rapallo. Strater depicted the steeple of Santuario di Montallegro, a basilica built in 1559, at the apex of the mountain.


(no image)
Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
XVI Cantos
Initials by Henry Strater (1896-1987)
1925
Bound volumes (2)
Inscribed on endpaper: To Father - April, 1925/Henry
Three Mountain Press, Paris
OMAA Permanent Collection
 
Like many Avant-Garde artists of the period, Ezra Pound, Henry Strater, and Ernest Hemingway toured several European countries after WWI. At one of his afternoon salons in Paris in 1922, Pound introduced Strater to Hemingway. Disillusioned by Parisian social circles, Pound traveled to Rapallo, Italy in 1924 where he reunited with Strater and continued writing his epic poem, The Cantos, two volumes of which were illustrated by Strater.
 
"Italy is my place for starting things," he said. In that year, Hemingway published in our time (lower case letters) by Three Mountain Press with a frontispiece illustration of Strater. In 1925, also the publication date for XVI Cantos, Hemingway re-published an expanded In Our Time (capital letters) with Boni & Liveright in New York.
 
 

(no image
Gaston Lachaise (1881-1935)
Portrait Head (Henry Strater)
1927
Cast bronze on black marble base
OMAA Permanent Collection #1953.21
Gift of David Strater, 1953
Born in Paris, Lachaise first apprenticed as a cabinetmaker with his father and at age thirteen entered the Bernard Palissy School, where he trained in the decorative arts. Between 1898 and 1904, he studied sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gabriel-Jules Thomas (1824-1905).
 
Lachaise began his artistic career as a designer of Art Nouveau decorative objects for the French jeweler Rene Lalique (1860-1945). He emigrated to the United States in 1906 and worked in Boston and New York. He shared studio space with Henry Strater at 55 West 8th Street. Known for his bronze nudes, busts, and portraits of artists and literary celebrities, this bronze was commissioned by Strater's wife Maggie at the height of Lachaise's career.
 
 
 
(no image)
Henry Strater (1896-1987)
"Hemingway" Art in America, vol. 49, no. 4
Dist. by Simon & Schuster
1961
Essay with illustrations by Henry Strater,
Portrait of Hemingway,
Profile of Ernest Hemingway,
The 1930 Portrait, pp. 84-85
OMAA Permanent Collection
Museum Purchase 2017

 

RL Editor's note:

Ms. Greene-McNally is curator of Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater.

Also see Expatriate Artists in TFAO's Topics in American Art, covering over 200 topics in American representational art.

Also see a July 16, 2017 article concerning Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater in the Press Herald.

 

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