"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sylvia Plath

This 1946 self-portrait by then 13 year old Sylvia Plath, showing herself tearfully reading about WWI, was an illustration in her high-school essay "A War to End Wars". It belongs to the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts and is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"When she was a student at Alice L. Phillips Junior High School in Wellesley, Plath wrote a critical essay about World War I entitled 'A War to End Wars,' illustrated with this self-portrait. Plath was thirteen and now wore her hair in a sophisticated pageboy. In this portrait, Plath is seated in a chair on a homemade rag rug weeping as she reads about the war. Plath was a member of the World Federalist Association and characterized herself as a pacifist throughout her life. When she was a senior in high school, Plath wrote an article with her classmate Perry Norton protesting the hydrogen bomb, 'Youth's Plea for World Peace,' which was published in the Christian Science Monitor on March 16, 1950. A career as a journalist was one of the professions Plath seriously considered." -- National Portrait Gallery
Elsewhere in the exhibition on Sylvia Path, we find her Girl  Scount Uniform (c. 1943-48), from the Historic Clothing Collection at Smith College.

"Sylvia Plath was a Girl Scout from age eleven to sixteen, earning twenty badges in a wide variety of activities (left to right, top to bottom): including Starfinder, Writer, Book Finder, Outdoor Cooking, Bibliophile, Dancer, Hospitality, Treefinder, Childcare, Birdfinder, Pioneer, World Knowledge, Foot Traveler, Campcraft, Scribe, Reader, Boating, Weaving, Group Music, and Minstrel. At least five of her badges related to reading and writing. On June 7, 1946, for example, she turned in thirty book reports by authors including Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). During this 1 period, she also collected stamps and wrote stories, essays, and poems, while taking viola, piano, and art lessons." -- National Portrait Gallery

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