Andy Warhol's Jackie dates from the height of the artist's career and combines the ground breaking themes of both his Death and Disaster series and his fascination with celebrity culture and the Society Portrait series. The present work shows a veiled Jackie Kennedy mourning at the funeral of her late husband, the tragically assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Jackie Kennedy's grieving countenance will always re-tell an epic tragedy and through the remote objectivity of the silkscreen, Warhol's Jackie documents the grief stricken expression of the United States' First Lady. With the most brilliant artistic innovation of its time, this work encapsulates the allure of unlimited celebrity, critiques the manipulative power and replicating effects of mass-media, and is a profound response to one of the most tragic moments of twentieth-century American history.
The source image belongs to a sequence of 8 images of the presidential wife selected by Warhol from the flood of press coverage in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination on 22nd November 1963. Having pursued a successful career in magazine illustration and advertising during the 1950s, Warhol's brilliant invention here lies in editing and cropping the perfect image to encapsulate the entire narrative of an open-top limousine journey and a sniper's bullet that devastated the emotional landscape of a nation. Jackie immediately and efficiently narrates America's sudden, violent loss and deep shock, which is as palpable and horrifying today as it was half a century ago. The assassination was followed two days later by JFK's burial in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. While a nation mourned the loss of a political hero, broadcasting agencies and news editors assembled their valedictory testimonials. As an entire population sank into the shared psychosis of bereavement, the media's carefully choreographed reaction precipitated the Jackie corpus: one of the most prodigious critiques of mass communication ever conceived.
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. This compelling work will always remain a seminal treatise on the emotional conditioning inherent to mass culture. Warhol was disturbed by the media's potential to manipulate, yet he simultaneously celebrated the power of the icon. Fame and its agents intoxicated him and he understood celebrity as integral to modern life. For Warhol, the genre of portraiture became a form of biography. The distilled emotions of America's first lady are enshrined on canvas in an image which captures the private side of a very public event. Captured in the stark monochrome of black and white, here Jackie is immortalised as a timeless and tragic heroine, whose very image recalls one of the twentieth century's defining moments. In keeping with his very best work, celebrity, tragedy and the spectre of death inhabit every pore of this iconic image.
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