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Delving into Hemingway’s legacy and challenges understandings of the man as writer and as artist.

Ernest Hemingway had a version of himself that he wanted us to see—the avid fisher and outdoorsman, the hyper-masculine writer, the man whose friends called him “Papa.” Then, there was the hidden Hemingway—vulnerable, sensitive and longing for connection. The two were not mutually exclusive, and in his work and his life, they often intersected.

More than anything, Hemingway’s external legacy is connected to his revolutionary writing. His declarative writing style was innovative, getting to the truth of the matter in as few words as possible. But his life attracted almost as much attention as his work. The legend came of age in 1920s Paris, a time where a salon gathering might attract such giants as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, and he later took up notable residence at homes in Key West and Cuba. Hemingway published more than nine novels and collections of short stories in his lifetime, many of them examinations of war set in Europe. Among the most famous are For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises and To Have and Have Not. He won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea, one of his last works to be published while still living. The following year, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his entire body of work. In 2020 a three-part documentary series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which delves into Hemingway’s legacy and challenges understandings of the man as writer and as artist, aired on PBS. His stark prose, his outdoorsy and adventurous lifestyle and his journalistic and wartime beginnings all helped Hemingway come to represent a kind of orchestrated masculine ideal.

The acclaimed writer “published a string of novels and stories that made readers see the world, because of him, as a different place, more vibrant, more alive, more elemental, and at the same time, more romantic,” wrote his biographer Mary V. Dearborn. “Yet something began to go wrong. …Ernest seemed to find it difficult to give and receive love, to be a faithful friend, and, perhaps most tragically, to tell the truth, even to himself.”

An intimate 1928 photograph of a 28-year-old Hemingway, taken by the artist Man Ray in Paris and held in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, is one of only a few depictions following a serious injury that occurred early in the morning of March 4, 1928. The skylight accident, as it became known, left a permanent scar on the writer's face, and on his psyche.