Obituaries : Henry Strater, 91; Artist at Center of Lost Generation

Times Staff Writer

Henry Strater, a Lost Generation artist who fished with, fought and eventually befriended Ernest Hemingway and illustrated the controversial “Cantos” of poet Ezra Pound, is dead at age 91.

Strater, who died Tuesday at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., also was the inspiration for the character Burne Halliday in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “This Side of Paradise.”

“I was the model for Burne Halliday, I regret to say,” Strater once said. “Why? Well, I was pretty much of a wild Indian.”

Strater had gone to Paris in the 1920s to study at the Academy Grande Chaumiere and with Edouard Vuillard when he met Hemingway.


The two became friends but only after they had brawled on a Paris street corner.

“I had boxed in school, and I think I impressed Hemingway with my punch,” Strater once recalled. “That’s the only way you could impress him.”

The street-corner brawl was followed sometime later by a verbal encounter over a then-record 14-foot, 4-inch black marlin caught during a fishing trip to Bimini in 1935.

“It was my fish, but when the photographer came by to take the picture at the dock, Hemingway sidled up close to the fish, stuck out his chest, and got his picture taken as if he had caught it. Time magazine later claimed he did,” Strater said.


A Strater portrait of Hemingway later was used for the cover of Carlos Baker’s biography of the Nobel-winning writer.

Strater’s portraits, watercolors and other realistic works are or have been displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the City Art Museum of St. Louis, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Ogunquit (Maine) Museum of Art, a small museum he built in the art colony where he had spent his summers since 1925.

Born in Louisville, Ky., Strater attended Princeton University, where he met Fitzgerald whose disenchantment with the Ivy League genre became the basis for many of his novels.

Strater is survived by nine children.