One Life: Sylvia Plath

June 30, 2017 – May 20, 2018

© Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation, courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona Foundation

National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, East Wing Floor Plan

One Life: Sylvia Plath is the first exploration of the poet and writer’s life in an art and history museum. The exhibition reveals how Plath shaped her identity visually as she came of age as a writer in the 1950s. Visitors will get a look into Plath’s personal life and her dualistic nature she explained as her “brown-haired” and “platinum” personalities. Through personal letters, her own artwork, family photographs and relevant objects, this exhibition highlights Plath’s struggle to understand her own self and to navigate the societal pressures placed on young women during her time. Her Smith College thesis, “The Magic Mirror: A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky’s Novels,” suggests that she took an academic approach to studying her own dualities.

The exhibition features a carefully selected array of images and objects from the Plath archives at Smith College and Indiana University’s Lilly Library, two collections that have never been brought together before in a museum exhibition. Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture at the Portrait Gallery, is curator for this show, joined by guest co-curator Karen Kukil, associate curator of rare books and manuscripts at Smith College.