21
21
Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy
Estimate
6,0008,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
21
Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy
Estimate
6,0008,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The White House Years of Robert S. McNamara

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New York

Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy
Autograph letter signed (“Jackie”), 10 pages (3 5/8 x 5 1/4 in.; 94 x 132 mm) on 5 black-ruled mourning cards embossed with the Kennedy family crest, [Washington], 11 December 1963, to Marjorie McNamara (“Dear Margie”), accompanied by the original autograph envelope signed (“Mrs. Kennedy”) and with the printed return address of “The White House” ruled through, the envelope docketed in pencil by Robert McNamara “12/63.”
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Catalogue Note

Mrs. Kennedy graciously declines a gift “from the man in his Cabinet who gave the most (as much as Jack’s own brother Bobby gave).”  Five days after moving out of the White House to her temporary residence at Averell and Pamela Harriman’s Georgetown townhouse, Jacqueline Kennedy writes to Mrs. McNamara about the proffered gift of a portrait of her late husband and her concerns for her young son. The McNamaras had evidently arranged to give Mrs. Kennedy a painting of President Kennedy by the society portraitist Charles J. Fox. (See the following lot for the portrait. Charles Fox was an alias for one Leo Fox, a New Yorker who, during the mid-twentieth century, furnished many prominent persons with portraits signed with his pseudonym but actually painted—after photographs—by Irving Resnikoff, a Russian immigrant artist who had studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts.) When Mrs. Kennedy learned that the painting was intended as a gift from the McNamaras, she asked them to keep it.

“I talked to Bob tonight, when he called up Bobby here, and told him that I loved so much the smaller portrait—the one of Jack sitting down.

“What I didn’t know—and what I obviously didn’t find out from him—was that this picture wasn’t yours already. … If I had known the situation of this picture—I would have said I hated it—because you & Bob have given more than anyone already. Why should you give more?

“But as I had made so obvious my feelings—I am now in a strange locking of horns where I am sure the Secretary of Defense and his wife can outwit me. PLEASE I don’t want you to give anything for Jack—you gave him all—and my consolation is that he will be remembered as great—because of Bob McNamara—so I do not wish you to give anything else. But if you are going to again creep around behind our backs—and give it to his Library—then I prefer to have you give this picture—rather than have your names inscribed on some bronze list—Because it will hang in a place of honor in his Library—from the man in his Cabinet who gave the most (as much as Jack’s own brother Bobby gave). So I send both pictures back to you—and it will be a long time before the Library is built and there is a place to hang it.” It is likely that once Charles Fox was exposed for signing portraits that he did not actually paint, the McNamaras did not believe the painting was appropriate for the JFK Library and Museum, although Resnikoff-Fox portraits can be found in numerous government agencies, business headquarters, and institutions.

On the other hand, the McNamaras may have decided to keep the painting because Mrs. Kennedy entreated them to, explaining as well that she could not bear to have it near her. “The only photograph I have here of Jack is where his back is turned—The two pictures have been propped against the wall at the little study outside my bedroom. Tonight John came out of my bedroom with a lollipop in his mouth. The picture I love was right in his way—and he took the lollipop out and kissed the picture and  said Goodnight Daddy—

“Mr. Fox may find sugary imprints he never painted in, on that picture, but you see why we could never bear to have it near us—It brings to the surface too many things—

“So if you wish to give it to the Library and keep it till then, it would be such an honor—but what I would love most of all—is if both of you who have given so much would give nothing more—except your friendship always. …” Mrs. Kennedy also expresses her hope that Secretary McNamara will play a role in advising her son when he gets older: “if Bob would watch out for John later on—and give him great lectures if he fails exams—and point him in the direction he should go—I can do that quite well for a while, but later on I won’t know, and Bob is exactly the same age as his own father—I really can’t ask Bob now to become a companion of John’s … because the Secretary of Defense would look rather ludicrous trotting around with a 3 year old—but Bob must remember him for later—even if you are back in Michigan.” After describing her hopes that John “will grow to be all his father wanted,” Mrs. Kennedy concludes, “Don’t frighten Bob—I think I prefer to save him for college lectures rather than swings in the park now with John!” She also explains the discrepancy between her writing paper and the envelope she used: “I really have digressed—& on this stationery. I won’t write on White House paper anymore—but they didn’t send me any envelopes with these cards!”

The White House Years of Robert S. McNamara

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New York