Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, June 16 through April 15, 2018

Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image, the first major exhibition on the star in the United States,  opened at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition showcases the life and influence of the actress in more than 45 objects, including correspondence, film clips and photographs. Among the images are many of Dietrich at various points in her life taken by notable photographers including Irving Penn.

Dietrich brought androgyny to the silver screen through her roles in movies such as Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932) and Seven Sinners (1940). The biggest Hollywood star at a time when “talkies” were still new, Dietrich challenged strictly limited notions of femininity through her lifestyle and fashion. She once stated, “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” Relying on her good looks, striking voice and witty intelligence, Dietrich achieved international fame during her long career.” — National Portrait Gallery

Marlene Dietrich by Joël-Heinzelmann Atelier. Photograph, 1918. Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich [Blue Angel close-up] by Unidentified Artist. Photograph, 1929-1930. Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich in “Morocco” by Eugene Robert Richee. Photograph, 1930. Photograph by Eugene Robert Richee, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich in “Morocco” by Eugene Robert Richee. Photograph, 1930. Photograph by Eugene Robert Richee, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich in “Dishonored” by Eugene Robert Richee. Photo blow-up, 1930. Photograph by Eugene Robert Richee, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich on the SS Europa, 1933, Cherbourg, France by Paul Cwojdzinski. Photograph, 1933. Photograph by Paul Cwojdzinski, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich as Shanghai Lily, in “Shanghai Express” by Don English. Photo blow-up, 1931-1932. Photograph by Don English, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich, 1940, for “Seven Sinners” [copy 2] by Unidentified Artist. Photograph (Vintage print, “strukuriert”-structured), 1940. Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich in “Seven Sinners” by John Engstead. Photograph (Vintage print, “strukuriert”-structured), 1940. Photograph by John Engstead, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich in “Seven Sinners” by John Engstead. Photograph, 1940. Photograph by John Engstead, Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich by George Hurrell. Photo blow-up, 1937. Courtesy Michael Hadley Epstein and Scott Edward Schwimer, © HurrellPhotos.com

Marlene Dietrich passionately kissing a GI as he arrives home from World War II, New York, 1945 by Irving Haberman. Photograph 1945 © Irving Haberman/IH Images, Courtesy, Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, NM

Marlene Dietrich posing with her Jeep by Unidentified Artist. Photo blow-up, 1944. Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich with Parachutists by George Horton. Photo blow-up, March 1945. Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich kissing Edith Piaf [copy1] by Unidentified Artist. Photograph, Date unknown (new print). Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

Marlene Dietrich by Irving Penn. Gelatin silver print, 1948. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Irving Penn © Conde Nast

Marlene Dietrich by Milton Greene. Archival inkjet, 1952 (printed 2017). Photographed by Milton H. Greene, ©2017 Joshua Greene, archiveimages.com

“Dietrich is a study of contrasts in many ways,” said Kate C. Lemay, exhibition curator and National Portrait Gallery historian. “She was known for her discipline and dedication to her craft while unapologetically breaking social barriers and embracing female independence.”

Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image was organized in cooperation with Deutsche Kinemathek – Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin.

Images courtesy National Portrait Gallery.