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The Morgan opens first major museum exhibition on the life and writings of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway revising the typescript of For Whom The Bell Tolls, Sun Valley, Idaho, November 1940. Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

NEW YORK, NY.- In July 1918, Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) was serving as a volunteer with the Red Cross on the Italian Front during World War I when he was seriously wounded by mortar fire. He was just eighteen.

Later he would write, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you ... Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen.”

Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars is the first museum exhibition devoted to one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century. His direct, spare style influenced successive generations of authors around the world. And tens of millions would read his books and never forget the stories and characters in such masterpieces as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea.

Organized in partnership with Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the exhibition explores the most dynamic period of Hemingway’s creative life, from 1918 to the aftermath of World War II, and his recurrent theme of confronting the fullness of life—and the finality of death—with grace and courage. Utilizing almost one hundred rarely exhibited manuscripts and letters, photographs, drafts and typescripts of stories, first editions, and artifacts from the author’s life, the exhibition reveals the man behind the myth, his struggles and triumphs. Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars is on view at the Morgan Library & Museum from September 25, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

“It is impossible to talk about the history of twentieth-century American literature…or world literature for that matter…without talking about Ernest Hemingway early in the conversation,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “His novels such as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls are among the best known and acclaimed books of the modern era. His style of writing spare, raw, direct—turned literature on its head. The Morgan is very pleased to collaborate with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to present this landmark exhibition and offer an intimate view of one of the icons of American literature.”

Tom Putnam, Kennedy Library Director, said, “We are thrilled to collaborate with the Morgan on this first-of-its-kind exhibition capturing Hemingway as he revolutionized the literary landscape. The Nobel-Prize laureate is often portrayed as a larger than life figure. The materials on display— most for the very first time—will serve to humanize the man and edify his creative talent.”

Exhibition Prelude
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” —Ernest Hemingway

In the early 1920s Hemingway had recovered from his war wounds and was determined to make his living as a writer. He moved to Paris with his wife, Hadley, and became part of a group of artists who found in the City of Light a conducive environment for work. His constellation of friends and acquaintances would include F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Joan Miró, among others. Sylvia Beach’s legendary bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, served as a gathering place. Looking back on those years, Hemingway would famously write, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

With the city as his backdrop, Hemingway would launch a career that in the next two decades saw the completion of five novels, two works of non-fiction, and five collections of short stories, most of which have taken their rightful place in the canon of twentieth century American literature.

The Exhibition

Section 1 — The Class Prophet
In his famous 1958 interview for The Paris Review, George Plimpton asked: “Can you recall an exact moment when you decided to become a writer?”

Hemingway replied: “No, I always wanted to be a writer.” Hemingway began writing and publishing in his teens, his first fiction appearing in Tabula, his high school magazine. In 1917 he took a job as a cub reporter at The Kansas City Star, where he learned the essentials of good writing from the newspaper’s style-sheet. Rule number one was: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English.” Other rules included: “Avoid the use of adjectives,” and “eliminate every superfluous word.” Hemingway remained with the Star for a relatively short period—from October 1917 until he enlisted in April 1918—but the precepts he learned there shaped his literary style and endured forever.

Section 2 — World War I
“The reason you are so sore…you missed the war,” Hemingway told F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, “…because war is the best subject of all. It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get.”

Hemingway’s participation in World War I was brief but its impact on his writing career was profound. In spring 1918 Hemingway enlisted in the American Red Cross and arrived in Italy on June 4. Little over a month later he was severely wounded. After a series of operations to remove 227 shrapnel fragments and bullets from his legs, he returned to the United States in January 1919. His experience as a war casualty, in combination with his deep study of the conflict, shaped numerous short stories as well as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. As biographer Michael Reynolds remarked, when Hemingway returned home “he had experienced the quintessential modern experience—the violence of war. There would be no peace in his time.”

Section 3 — Paris
“Paris was the place,” said Gertrude Stein, “that suited us who were to create the twentieth century art and literature.” Hemingway took up residence in Paris in January 1922. Ostensibly there to write feature stories on European affairs for The Toronto Star, he arrived with letters of introduction to Stein, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Beach. He would later acknowledge that he “learned a lot” from Stein “though not half as much as he learned from Ezra Pound or one tenth as much as he learned from James Joyce.” Hemingway covered the Greco-Turkish war in September–October 1922, and from that time began to regularly publish his poetry and short stories in literary magazines. In Paris Hemingway transformed himself from a journalist into a writer of fiction and, in doing so, forged a new style in literature. When In Our Time was published in 1925, The New York Times commented that “his language is fibrous and athletic, colloquial and fresh, hard and clean, his very prose seems to have an organic being of its own.”

Included in this section is a letter written to Hemingway by F. Scott Fitzgerald in December 1926. Fitzgerald was an early champion of Hemingway’s work and wrote to congratulate him on the critical reception of The Sun Also Rises, saying “I’m delighted with what press I’ve already seen of The Sun ect. Did not realize that you had stolen it all from me but am prepared to believe that its true & shall tell everyone. By the way I liked it in print even better than in manuscript.

Section 4 — Key West and Havana
Hemingway resided in Paris until the end of 1929. For the next ten years he lived mostly in Key West, Florida, with his second wife, Pauline, although he returned periodically to Europe to attend the Fiesta San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain. In the spring of 1939, Martha Gellhorn, who would become his third wife, rented a farmhouse, the Finca Vigia near Havana. Hemingway moved in with her and they purchased the house shortly after their marriage in November 1940.

Hemingway’s literary fame grew steadily in the 1930s on the heels of the highly successful 1929 publication of A Farewell to Arms, which he completed in Key West. The exhibition includes the first two pages of the manuscript with the famous opening paragraph: “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

This section also features a September 1929 letter from Dorothy Parker to Hemingway accompanying a draft of a profile of him she was writing for The New Yorker. Nervously, she writes, “part of the Artist’s Reward is having shit like this written about you.”

While Hemingway maintained his fierce commitment to literature, he also indulged his passions, and it proved to be a decade of diverse adventure and excitement for him. He published a collection of short stories, Winner Take Nothing (1933), wrote fiction and journalism for Esquire and Cosmopolitan, hunted in Sun Valley, Idaho, and on the Serengeti Plain, and fished the Gulf Stream. In 1937 he reported on the Spanish Civil War—which he prophesied as “the” dress rehearsal for the inevitable European war—and drew upon his experiences in Spain for the novel that consolidated his literary reputation in 1940, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Section 5 — World War II
In the mid 1930s Hemingway was vehemently isolationist. “Of the hell broth that is brewing in Europe,” he told his Esquire magazine readers, “we have no need to drink. Europe has always fought, the intervals of peace are only Armistices. We were fools to be sucked in once on a European war and we should never be sucked in again.” But in the same article he also observed ruefully that “No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war.”

His own first-hand knowledge of war, and its fatal dangers, did not keep Hemingway at home. In 1944, upon returning to Europe to report the war for Collier’s magazine, he explained his presence at the front line by saying “I got war fever like the measles.” He was widely admired— not only by many of his fellow war correspondents, but also by military personnel, who saw him as an “imaginative military technician and strategist.” Colonel Charles T. Lanham, commanding officer of the 22nd Regiment, described Hemingway as “the bravest man he ever knew.” On view in this section is a heavily bearded Hemingway’s Overseas Visa issued by the Allied Supreme Command. The ASC would later bring charges against the writer that he had taken on a combat role in his coverage of the war.

Section 6 — An Old Hunter Talking with Gods
“Writing well is impossibly difficult,” Hemingway told George Plimpton, and “the time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness.” After the end of the Second World War, the austere discipline that had always been self-imposed—and which had served Hemingway so well from his earliest days as a writer—grew increasingly burdensome to him. He became more keenly aware that, as Eliot put it, “every attempt / Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure.” Hemingway continued to write prolifically but finishing what he had begun became more and more difficult. Depression and deteriorating health took their toll on his creativity. After the mostly negative reviews of his 1950 novel Across the River and Into the Trees he published only one more book, The Old Man and the Sea, for which he received the 1952 Pulitzer Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 “for his mastery of the art of narrative . . . and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.”

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