The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina opens the exhibition Ernest Hemingway and Walker Evans: Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933 on view December 23, 2005, in the Main and Rotunda Galleries of the Museum. This exhibition displays 46 vintage photographic prints by Walker Evans found among Ernest Hemingway‚s possessions after his death, along with notes and personal artifacts. Ernest Hemingway and Walker Evans: Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933 will be on view at the Gibbes through February 19, 2006.
A friendship between Walker Evans (1903 - 1975) and Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) began in Havana, Cuba in May 1933. The three weeks they spent together left a lasting impression on both men as evident in the exhibition Ernest Hemingway and Walker Evans: Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933, which pairs never-before-exhibited photographs by Evans with newly discovered Hemingway letters and personal items. These documents and images reveal a friendship between the two men in Havana during a time of growing political instability. This set of Evans prints, Hemingway acquired in 1933 and stored away for years, have only recently become available for public viewing.
In May 1933, the young American photographer Walker Evans arrived in Cuba. He was there on assignment to take photographs for The Crime of Cuba, Carlton Beals‚s severely critical book about the Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado. Hemingway had arrived in Cuba from Key West on a boat, the Anita, chartered from his friend Josie "Sloppy Joe" Russell, to fish and to work on manuscripts. It was during this period that Hemingway wrote two short stories that later developed into To Have and Have Not, his famous 1937 novel set against the backdrop of roaring Havana and Depression era Key West.
Along with images of common Cuban families, children and social landscapes, Evans documented the undercurrents of political unrest brewing in the country. Several of his pictures are of armed soldiers in the streets or of dead men, the victims of Machado‚s strongmen who were often found with their tongues cut off or throats slit. Evans also copied several gruesome pictures from Cuban newspaper stories.
In a cryptic note from Evans to Hemingway, he handwrites, „I have some pictures tonight, and will have more tomorrow.‰ A meeting between the two artists has always been known but the details were not clear until the recent discovery of the photographs and the notes in Hemingway's belongings.
It was suggested that Evans, fearing that he was being watched by the dictator‚s secret police, and that they might confiscate his pictures, gave the prints to Hemingway for safekeeping. Evans would later leave Cuba with 400 negatives but Hemingway would keep the 46 prints that Evans had given him. James R. Mellow confirms this story in his 1999 biography on Walker Evans.
In Mellow's biography, Evans recalls, "I had a wonderful time with Hemingway. Drinking every night. He was at loose ends - and he needed a drinking companion, and I filled that role for two weeks." Indeed, their friendship developed and Hemingway was comfortable enough to provided Evans with sufficient funds to extend his visit for an additional week.
Both artists had an influence on each other's work. The beginning paragraph of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not, describes a bum asleep on the street and is thought to be a written account of several images by Evans in the exhibition. It is also known that Evans was an admirer of Hemingway and as a young man lived abroad in Paris as an aspiring writer. As Evans later found his expressive medium in photography he developed a visual style that was "puritanically economical, precisely measured, frontal, unemotional, dryly textured, insistently factual," as noted by John Szarkowski, director emeritus of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in his book Looking at Photographs. This assessment could describe Hemingway's literary work as well.
The three weeks Hemingway and Evans spent together would have a lasting impact on each of them. The events they witnessed, the political upheaval they observed, and their many late night discussions, affected the style and powers of observation of each man for the rest of his life. Their paths never crossed again.
Ernest Hemingway and Walker Evans: Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933 will be on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art December 23, 2005 - February 6, 2006. The exhibition features audio tours available in both English and Spanish. The exhibition is organized by the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House, Florida, and circulated by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions (CATE), Los Angeles.