Today marks the 111th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's birth, and we're celebrating by delving into the author's personal sense of style. Well known for developing a uniquely spare and stoic brand of writing, Hemingway's tastes in life were less understated.
Hemingway grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, a neighborhood that he famously characterized as having "broad lawns and narrow minds." If you're in Oak Park, you can visit the Hemingway Museum and the author's birthplace home, a Queen Anne Victorian of the type that fellow Oak Parker Frank Lloyd Wright was reacting against in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Hemingway left Oak Park to work as a journalist and, later, as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I. After being wounded (according to the Hemingway Foundation, he was the first American wounded in WWI) he returned home, married, and then moved to France. His time in Europe sharpened his experiences and his eye, and he fell in with other expatriate writers living in Paris during the 1920s — Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound among them. He also met the greatest painters of the day, including Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. In his 1964 (posthumously published) autobiography, he wrote the now-famous lines, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
After the publication of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway divorced, married his second wife Pauline, and left Paris for Key West, Florida. Their home is now a museum which you can tour, decorated with furnishings that he and Pauline collected on their travels through Europe. Their headboard was a gate from an old Spanish monastery, and their kitchen was decorated with Spanish and Portugese tiles.
Hemingway's writing studio remains today the way it looked for most of the 10 years he lived and worked in the Key West home. Located in a carriage house set apart from the main building, his second-floor study is decorated in mementos from his travels. Hemingway was a hunter, and an antelope head hangs over the shelves. In the center of the room are his Royal typewriter and Cuban chair.
In 1934, Hemingway bought a boat which he named Pilar and sailed around the Caribbean. He also went on Safari in Africa during the 30s and traveled to Spain as a journalist covering the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Hemingway left Pauline for his third wife, Martha. They moved to Cuba and lived at Finca Vigía ("Lookout Farm"), which is now owned and operated as a museum by the Cuban government. (The US National Trust lists it as an endangered property in need of structural repair.) The house holds a library of 9,000 books, as well as Hemingway's artworks and furnishings. The home is open and breezy, decorated with cane chairs, walls of books, and Hemingway's beloved animal heads.
In 1945, Hemingway divorced once more but continued to retain ownership of Finca Vigía and Pilar. His fourth wife, Mary, lived with him in Cuba and later in Ketchum, Idaho, where they moved in 1959. The Idaho house would be his last; he took his life there in 1961 after struggling with mental illness. Today, the home is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is not open to the public.
Hemingway's legacy is his writing, for which he won the Nobel Prize and a place in the canon of American literature. While his text favored economy of words, his personal style was like his life — varied, rich, complex, and well traveled. If there's a thread that ties all of his homes together, it's the presence of books, art, and souvenirs from his many trips. Happy 111th, Ernest Hemingway!
Photos: Hemingway aboard his Yacht around 1950, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons (1), Ernest Hemingway seated with the persons depicted in the novel The Sun Also Rises: Hemingway, Harold Loeb, Lady Duff Twysden; and the characters Hadley, Don Stewart and Pat Guthrie, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons (2), A Moveable Feast used via Wikimedia Commons (3), Hemingway's Studio, Hemingway House in Key West by Flickr member lug00ber used under Creative Commons license (4), Hemingway's Bedroom, Hemingway House in Key West by Flickr member lug00ber used under Creative Commons license (5), Bathroom, Hemingway House in Key West by Flickr member inazakira used under Creative Commons license (6), Porch, Hemingway House in Key West by Flickr member Ray_from_LA used under Creative Commons license (7), Ernest Hemingway with Pauline, Gregory, John, and Patrick Hemingway and four marlins on the dock in Bimini, 20 July 1935, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons (8), Finca Vigía by InZweiZeiten used under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons (9), Ernest Hemingway in Kenya, 1953, Earl Theisen, Library of Congress, LOOK Magazine Collection, Public Rights via Wikimedia Commons (10)