Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan

Unlike everyone else in the known universe, I hated The Time Traveler’s Wife. I thought it was way too long, way too confusing, and way too crude and sexually and violently graphic. This book, A Portrait of Jennie, is a much gentler, shorter (125 pages) book with a plot comparable to The Time Traveler’s Wife. I liked it very much.

A Portrait of Jennie was published in 1940; it’s out of print but available used from Amazon. In the story, it’s 1938, and the narrator, a starving artist, meets a little girl named Jennie. She’s a girl from the past, and she inspires a painting that captures the interest of an art gallery owner. As the girl re-appears in the narrator’s life, a bit older each time, she continues to inspire paintings and, finally, love.

Author Robert Nathan wrote many novels, a couple of children’s books, and some collections of poetry. According to Wikipedia, he had seven wives. You wouldn’t think he’d know much about romance and long term love and commitment, but A Portrait of Jennie is poignantly romantic.

A Portrait of Jennie was made into a movie in 1948 starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. Nathan also wrote The Bishop’s Wife, a novel which was also made into a movie.

Quotation Time:

“I suppose most artists go through something of the sort; sooner or later it is no longer enough for them just to live —to paint, and have enough, or nearly enough, to eat. Sooner or later God asks His question: are you for me, or against me? And the artist must have some answer, or feel his heart break for what he cannot say.”

6 thoughts on “Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan

  1. I recently recorded this movie from TCM but knew nothing about it. Your post makes me very interested in viewing it soon.

  2. I agree with you on The Time Traveler’s Wife for the same reasons.

  3. My wife said the same things you said about The Time Traveler’s Wife.

  4. I read “Portrait of Jennie” as a young girl, and I suppose because of my youth, I was a little confused. Maybe I should give it another shot.

  5. mikee

    I never tried watching it, I love how it went through my mind discovering it by reading the novel 10 years ago. It is now a part of what I called my holy memory. Still in love with Jen App though.

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