From his humble origins in Long Island and Brooklyn, Walt Whitman earned a global audience that continues to grow today. To celebrate Whitman’s 200th birthday, Walt Whitman: Bard of Democracy explores Whitman’s process of self-invention, from his early years as a journalist, through the early 1850s when he began to write more privately and poetically. Several of Whitman’s notebooks will be on display, as well as his portraitist’s copy of Leaves of Grass (1855) and the famous letter written to Whitman by Ralph Waldo Emerson commending that book. The exhibition establishes Whitman as a witness to the Civil War and displays many of his famous poems, including “O Captain! My Captain!” Also on view are documents from Oscar Wilde, Hart Crane, Federico García Lorca and Allen Ginsberg, which trace Whitman’s influence on the twentieth century. The exhibition draws on the Morgan’s own holdings, as well as generous loans from the great Whitman collections at the Library of Congress.
Phillips & Taylor Walt Whitman, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, wearing hat and sweater, holding butterfly 1873, The Library of Congress