John F Kennedy, 1963

Elaine de Kooning

Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Elaine de Kooning was widely known for her contemporary gestural portraits. She was chosen in 1962 to create a portrait of the President for the Truman Library because she worked quickly. She had seven informal sessions with Kennedy in Palm Beach, Florida at the end of December and early January of 1963. She was so moved by Kennedy that over the next 10 months she created hundreds of drawings and 23 paintings of him. The full length painting, above, captures Kennedy’s restless energy and it’s colors evoke a coolness and a detachment not always obvious to his admirers. de Kooning loved the “feeling of the outdoors that he radiated and noted that on the patio, where we often sat, he was enveloped by the green of the leaves and the golden light of the afternoon sun.”  After President Kennedy was assassinated, on November 2, 1963, the Artist stopped painting for a year.