efore embarking on her celebrated writing career, Edith Newbold Jones Wharton experienced a privileged childhood as a member of New York City’s social elite. Extensive European travel was an important element of that lifestyle. Between the ages of four and ten, Wharton sojourned with her family in Italy, Spain, and France. While eight-year-old Edith was living in Paris, the Anglo-American artist Edward Harrison May painted this portrait.

Although Wharton would later chronicle the frustrations of her childhood, it was during the European trips of her youth that she came to enjoy “making up” inventing the fictional worlds she would write about as an adult. From the mid-1890s, Wharton spent much of her life abroad, where she formed friendships with other American expatriates, such as Henry James. Yet she owed her fame to incisive depictions of New York’s upper class, as in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Age of Innocence (1920).


  • Title: Edith Wharton
  • Creator: Edward Harrison May
  • Creator Lifespan: 1824 - 1887
  • Date Created: 1870
  • Physical Dimensions: w60.3 x h73 x d3.8 cm (Stretcher)
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
  • External Link: https://npg.si.edu/portraits
  • Classification: Painting

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps