Washington Irving and his Literary Friends at Sunnyside

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The artists Christian Schussele and Felix Darley created this apocryphal gathering of leading writers at Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s Hudson River home, to honor the literary culture created by America’s founding generation of writers.

By making Irving the center of the image, the artists both glorify his career and at the same time celebrate the national culture.

But in doing so, they made the writers too much alike.

As a New York critic wrote, “If [Irving] could have caught a glimpse of such a gathering . . . [he] would have dashed out of doors.” Nonetheless, the group portrait is an important summing up of an era in which American literature found its voice and created a vigorous national culture that a new generation-Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane-would later enhance.

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