In the days following Kennedy’s assassination Warhol was drawn to the proliferation of pictures and articles that documented events. Above all, he was mesmerised by the images of the newly-widowed Jackie. Jackie epitomised the glamour and elegance that surrounded the Kennedy administration. The images firstly of her still covered in her husband’s blood and later, dignified in grief at his funeral, embodied the sense of loss felt by the American people.
Warhol decided to focus on these pictures in a series of works but as his initial concept developed he found himself drawn not only to these images but to older photographs of happier times. The images collected together by Warhol metamorphosised into a meditation on happiness, grief and the fragility of human life.
Mesmerised by her beauty, in each case Warhol focused closely in on Jackie’s face. In the present work we are struck by her poise and beauty and by the energy of the image – she bewitches even at this distance. Her smile is symbolic of all the hope, optimism and youthful energy promised by the Kennedy administration.
Master of the power of the image, Warhol’s uncanny ability to tap into the public consciousness turned photograph into icon. This image of Jackie epitomises Warhol’s fascination with exploring the public and private images of celebrity and here, we are presented with the nostalgic and intimate portrait of the most iconic first lady, whose image Warhol has cemented in American Pop culture.
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