- Andy Warhol
- spray paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
- 50.8 by 40.6 cm.; 20 by 16in.
- Executed in 1964.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
Sale: Christie's, London, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 24 June 2004, Lot 7
The extraordinary metallic and reflective qualities of gold held particular importance for Warhol and outstanding highlights of the Jackie series depend upon the predominance of the colour such as The Week That Was I, and Jackie Frieze. In fact Warhol's use of gold was exceedingly rare: outside the Jackie works, two round Marilyns of 1962, two Ethel Sculls of 1963 and the dramatically iconic Gold Marilyn Monroe of 1962 in the Museum of Modern Art in New York are exceptional instances of gold canvases in Warhol's entire 1960s output. One of just a handful of single canvases of Jackie Kennedy in gold, here, the widow's portrait is screened upon a rich shimmering ground, a reminder of the glittering, celebrated public life of his subject.
Kennedy's assassination was followed two days later by his burial in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., while the route of the cortege was lined by 800,000 mourners, broadcasting agencies and news editors assembled their valedictory testimonials to a hero. As an entire population sank into the shared psychosis of bereavement, the media's carefully choreographed narration precipitated one of the most prodigious critiques of mass communication ever conceived. This traumatising national experience, one of the earliest to be covered by the media, is arguably also the first to be implanted in the public's consciousness by means of ubiquitous photographic images. In this climate Warhol was immediately intrigued by "the way television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad" (Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol '60s, London 1980, p. 77).
Rainer Crone described Jackie Kennedy as "the woman whose feelings were reproduced in all the media to such an extent that no better historical document on the exhibitionism of American emotional values is conceivable" (Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, New York 1970, p. 29). Captivated by the notions of celebrity and death, Warhol desensitised the overwhelming feelings of national loss through replication and multiplication, underscoring the manipulative potentiality of mass media. Warhol was disturbed by the media's ability to manipulate and yet simultaneously celebrate the power of the icon. Fame and its agents intoxicated him, and he understood celebrity as integral to modern life.
Advancing themes initiated in his highly acclaimed Death and Disaster series, Warhol here narrated the catastrophe through the mirror of Jackie's face, relating the horror by depicting its closest witness. Jackie enshrines on canvas one of the defining moments of modern American history, in an image which is deeply personal, revealing the private side of a very public event. Georg Frei and Neil Printz have assessed how Warhol "brought her into close-up, making her the dramatic focus and emotional barometer of the Kennedy assassination, shifting the historical narrative into a series of affective moments or portraits that register the subject over time" (Georg Frei and Neil Printz, Eds., The Andy Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 2A, Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, London and New York 2004, p. 103). Without historical perspective and working immediately after the event, Warhol identified the media's capacity to fix this association between icon and story exceptionally early. In keeping with his very best work, celebrity, tragedy and the specter of death inhabit every pore of this magnificent painting.