Support the Whitney
Become a founding member today.Join now
In 1964, Andy Warhol appropriated newspaper photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy for a series of dramatic paintings in which he depicted the moments before and after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. The top row of Nine Jackies features a smiling Jackie, the President’s face barely visible to her left. This image stands in juxtaposition to the shot that appears in the painting’s middle row, taken during the ceremony in which Kennedy’s flag-draped coffin was carried to the Capitol, and to the bottom row picture, snapped as a grief-stricken Jackie stood by Lyndon B. Johnson’s side during his swearing-in ceremony. To produce this painting and the others in the series, Warhol photo-mechanically transferred the images of Jackie onto silkscreens, which were then printed onto canvas. The works combine two of his signature themes—celebrities and fatal disasters—yet these closely cropped, voyeuristic newspaper pictures differ from the glossy publicity stills that the artist typically used as the basis for his work. Now embedded in our national consciousness, the images of a bereft widow in the hours and days after her husband’s death reveal emotions that were then rarely seen in public. By using photographs from before and after the event, Warhol created a modern history painting in which the murder of a president is unseen yet tragically present.