The image of author Ernest Hemingway as an oft-drunk, womanizing adrenaline junkie has endured long after he committed suicide in his Ketchum home in 1961, but for those who knew him, he was also sensitive, curious and intelligent. It's that other side of Hemingway visitors to the Boise State University Student Union will get to see with Hemingway's Veneto, an exhibition of photos by and of the author, which runs through Sunday, May 24.
"Even the scholars do spend a lot of time on Hemingway's character because he had such a strong presence. But can't we at least see the other side of him?" said Boise-based Hemingway scholar Dr. Stacey Guill. "He's one of the most well-read people. He was a braggart, but he was also a consummate listener, and that's why he can get so much into the heads of his characters. I think he's been treated unfairly even though he was a louse."
Made up of more than 40 photos snapped by the author and his friends during visits to Venice and Veneto in northern Italy, the show has been culled from Il Veneto di Hemingway, an exhibition of 100 photos curated by Gianni Moriani and Rosella Mamoli Zorzi as a project by Venice International University "based on the idea of reconstructing and valorizing the Veneto through Hemingway's experience of the region during his stays in Italy from 1948 to 1954."
Guill said she and her husband spent $1,300 shipping the photos from Miami, Fla., to Boise for the exhibition.
The photos, which are arranged chronologically, include posed shots of a young Hemingway, his legs bandaged from wounds sustained in a mortar attack during the First World War, and his first love, Red Cross nurse Agnes von Kurowsky. It was during this period Hemingway made observations and gathered material for what would become his
second third novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926) A Farewell to Arms (1929).
Hemingway would return to northern Italy several times during his life. During one sojourn—which would become the source of his 1950 novel Across the River and Into the Trees—Hemingway was photographed with his Italian translator and friend Fernanda Pivano and her future husband Ettore Sottsass, along with Baron Nanuk Franchetti and Adriana Ivancich, who served as the author's muse and illustrated the novel's first-edition dustjacket (a copy of it is on display as part of the exhibition, along with other Hemingway artifacts).
Hemingway's Veneto shows Hemingway in the bloom of life: on a rowboat, training his shotgun on a duck floating in a river lined with eggshell-white Italian villas and mucking through the mud with noblemen.
The series also shows Hemingway in the final decade of his life, a time when Ivancich had distanced herself from him: Always a heavy drinker, after the publication of Across the River he was increasingly using alcohol to dull the pain from his injuries, which included a fractured skull, cracked vertebrae and a damaged liver. Photos of Hemingway at this time, his arms bandaged after being burned in a pair of plane crashes in Africa during a big-game hunting trip, are marked by heartbreak.
Images of Papa Hemingway abound in popular culture but usually show the author as larger than life. Hemingway's Veneto shows the Hemingway his friends knew, and Guill said she hopes that students who see this side of him may see his books in a new light.
"This is wonderful because kids are walking through here all the time," Guill said. "Some of them might think, 'Hey, maybe I should read him.' I hope they see he was a man."