Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Big Shoes to Fill"

9 x 12"
oil on panel

I first saw Jamie Wyeth's Portrait of John F. Kennedy in person in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC - the painting now hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in their permanent collection.  It is exquisite.

Jamie Wyeth was 20 years old when he was approached by the Kennedy family to paint a posthumous portrait in 1965.  Wyeth spent the next two years creating preparatory drawings, joining senators Robert and Edward Kennedy on their campaign trails to pick up on shared family traits and mannerisms.  

There are brilliant nuances in Wyeth's portrait - one eye is directed to the viewer, the other slightly looking into the distance - his clenched fist in front of his mouth, a gesture Jacqueline Kennedy considered 'strikingly accurate'.  It was said Robert Kennedy wasn't fond of the portrait, who felt 'his brother's disconcerted look was a painful reminder of his uncertainty during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs invasion'.  In the end, the official White House portrait went to another artist, Gardner Cox.

Wyeth's portrait has hung in the JFK Library, was reproduced on an Ireland postage stamp and for a time hung in the Washington DC home of Vice President Joe Biden.  Biden 'always appreciated how President Kennedy's concentrated gaze demonstrates the difficult decisions world leaders face.'

Please click here for a larger view.

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