Ernest Hemingway’s learning to see, to hear, and to feel or not feel.

Ernest Hemingway

The Harvesters, 1565 Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, active by 1551, died 1569)

In 1925, Ernest and Hadley purchased Joan Miró‘s painting The Farm(1921–22), now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A few years later, Hemingway wrote an article for Cahiers d’Art about his purchase of the painting and the impact of Miró’s composition on him. This marked the beginning of the writer’s lifelong admiration for and friendship with a number of European and American painters. In 1931, Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, purchased The Guitar Player (1926) and The Bullfighter (1913), both by their friend Juan Gris. The latter work would be reproduced as the frontispiece for Hemingway’s treatise on bull fighting Death in the Afternoon (1932). Soon thereafter, Ernest and Pauline acquired a number of paintings by the French Surrealist André Masson, five of which are now in the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston

Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants, 1893–94, Paul Cézanne (French), Oil on canvas (61.101.4)

Throughout his life, Hemingway visited art galleries and museums, some of his favorites being the Prado, the Louvre, the Accademia in Venice, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum. Along with his appreciation of European art, he expressed admiration for Winslow Homer , and owned works by the American painters Waldo Peirce and Henry Strater. Hemingway wrote commentaries on art and artists, and, in many of his works, refers to paintings by Bruegel (19.164), Bosch, Cézanne (61.101.4), Goya, Homer, and others. In his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), he gives excruciating accounts of the devastation suffered on both sides during the Spanish Civil War, with many of his passages reading very much like the images depicted by Goya in his series of etchings (32.62.17) entitled The Disasters of War (1810–23). In other works, Hemingway comments on Cézanne’s style and way of interpreting the world around him. The author remarked in one interview that he learned as much from painters about how to write as from writers. Painters and their works were integral to Hemingway’s learning to see, to hear, and to feel or not feel. They were part of the writer’s renowned ability to present an image hard, clear, and concentrated, using the language of ordinary speech without vague generalities, as true as a painter’s color.


2 comments on “Ernest Hemingway’s learning to see, to hear, and to feel or not feel.

  1. granbee says:

    This is why I, as a writer returning to writing everyday after a too-long hiatus, value your frequent posting of various types of art and photography here–these works teach us to “see” and focus the sight of our readers through our word images formed thereby. I love Hemingway and am intrigued and much informed to see the comparison between his desciptions in For Whom the Bell Tolls with the paintings of Goya! Wonderful thoughts I will keep close to my writer’s soul always.


  2. […] Ernest Hemingway’s learning to see, to hear, and to feel or not feel. ( […]


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