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James Dean

James Dean
Usage Conditions Apply
Artist
Roy Schatt, 1909 - 2002
Sitter
James Dean, 8 Feb 1931 - 30 Sep 1955
Date
1954
Type
Photograph
Medium
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image: 34.7 x 42.2cm (13 11/16 x 16 5/8")
Sheet: 35.4 x 42.9cm (13 15/16 x 16 7/8")
Mat: 55.9 x 71.1cm (22 x 28")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Schatt
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Copyright
© CMG Worldwide, Inc.
Object number
NPG.91.209
Exhibition Label
James Dean was the first American teenager realistically captured by Hollywood, and he stamped adolescence with a half-squinting look of tormented yearning and tentative tenderness. Beautiful and bisexual, Dean remains "the poet of what it’s like to be young, lost, or alone," one biographer wrote. In his short, meteoric career, he combined small-town midwestern innocence (Indiana childhood, East of Eden [1955]) with mythic Americana (as Jett Rink in Giant [1956]), and urban bohemia (still photos in New York City) with the automotive escapism of suburban high school kids (Rebel Without a Cause [1955]). His appeal came from being "able to expose the emotion on-screen that he couldn’t in real life," one close friend said. Dean’s persona is still often invoked by young American actors, and his life is now myth, as if captured by the formulaic phrase, "live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse." As one writer claimed about Dean’s cool, "he made adolescent defiance heroic."
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection