Major work by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Studies of Jackie is key to understanding the emblematic Jackie series, which holds a special place in the world that Andy Warhol portrayed all throughout the artistic career he really began only a few months before the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
It was in the last weeks of 1964 when Andy Warhol decided to drop his career as a drawer and definitively leave the advertising world behind to become the genius artist we now know. At the very beginning of the 60s, Warhol started to create paintings inspired by American pop culture and more specifically the comics in fashion at the time: Batman, Popeye and Superman. The following year, his first Campbell's Soup Cans shifted his approach. In 1962, he then discovered silkscreen, the process that was to become his trademark, and with which he made several portraits of Marilyn Monroe.
On November 22, 1964, Warhol had just created some of the first works that were soon to be considered masterpieces and enter history, revolutionizing the art world for ever and de facto turning him into the king of pop art, when a tragic event took place in Dallas: the assassination of the 35th president of the United States. Fascinated by the media madness around the drama, Warhol decided to document it. With his assistant Gerard Malanga, the artist collected all the photographic reproductions that showed the first lady in the news –dozens, maybe hundreds- and decided to keep only eight for the famous series to which Studies of Jackie belongs. Two of these images show Jackie Kennedy smiling and wearing a lovely fascinator while arriving in Dallas with her husband. On two others, we see her shocked but dignified next to Lyndon B. taking the oath on board of the Air Force One a few hours after the murder. Four others show her veiled at the funerals three days later in Washington.
The main interest of Studies of Jackie, the work we present here, is to illustrate the eight historic shots that Warhol here transposed on an impressively large medium, whereas most of Jackie's portraits made in 1964 are 51cm high and 41cm wide. But aside from its evident monumentality and systematic composition echoing the hype around the event, which for Warhol characterizes one of the main drifts of post-industrial consumption society, Studies of Jackie is also a particularly captivating work for it reveals the two obsessions in Warhol's oeuvre: fame and death.
Even more than movie stars Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, which face is printed several meters large, stands for a much higher and almost sovereign idea of popularity. Captured without artifice, in black and white, at the peak of her glory yet on the edge of the precipice, Studies of Jackie embodies the venomous fascination of Warhol for American society better than any of the Marilyn and Liz, which reference pictures did not come from newspapers but commercial image banks that showed them under their best light.
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