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Jamie Wyeth: The Kennedy Studies

October 6, 2017 – April 1, 2018

Exhibition Dates

October 6, 2017 – April 1, 2018

May 29, 2017, marked the 100th birthday of John F. Kennedy, America’s 35th president, whose assassination in Dallas in 1963 shocked and saddened the world. Many who were alive at the time can still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of his death.

Three years after the horrific event, twenty-one-year old Jamie Wyeth embarked on a series of  preparatory sketches for a posthumous portrait of the president known for his eloquence, diplomacy, and optimism. The challenge, of course, was not only to portray a man Wyeth never met, but also to paint the portrait of such a well-known public figure. Kennedy would have been fifty years old in 1967 when Wyeth completed the painting, now also fifty and recently acquired by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

For two years Wyeth took on intensive research, immersing himself in photographs, articles, and films depicting JFK as he commenced his drawings for the portrait. In order to understand as much as possible about the president’s mannerisms and speech patterns shared in common with his younger brothers, Wyeth also spent many hours sketching Robert and Edward Kennedy during their day-to-day activities.  Wyeth said in an interview soon after the portrait was completed, that he had “wanted the president’s face so engraved in my mind that I could place him in any situation I wanted.”

Several of these candid pencil studies of the Kennedy brothers, and a color study of JFK made in preparation for his now famous portrait, are presented here.