In New York, the Tormented, Triumphant Life of Tennessee Williams

Irving Penn photographed Tennessee Williams in 151, for Vogue. Playwright Tennessee Williams said that he found “no refuge but writing” and couldn’t resist gilding even his paintings with words. one self-portrait, the author scrawled “ flattering”; another, he signed the canvas the white undershirt he wearing. The pictures—one from 1939, the other isn’t dated—capture Williams’s face and his bare shoulders, in a simple representational style, against a vivid blue background. They are part of a wide-ranging exhibition on the writer of plays such as “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” opening Feb. 2 the Morgan Library & Museum in New York. Williams started painting as a young man and made it a lifelong hobby. The exhibit also includes an undated oil portrait by Williams of Pancho Rodriguez, his lover the time he was working on “Streetcar.” The poems of Hart Crane entranced Williams, but in 1936, a performance of Henrik Ibsen’s dark drama, “Ghosts,” literally propelled the would-be-poet from his seat and into pacing back and forth. The drama “took the top of his brain off,” said Carolyn Vega, an associate curator in the department of literary and historical manuscripts […]

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