Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kennedy Portrait 1962

The image that I have selected is a portrait of John F Kennedy painted by William Franklin Draper. Based on an oil sketch for which Kennedy posed in 1962, this portrait underscores the youthful vitality that was such an important part of Kennedy's charisma. It, like the many photographs taken by Cecil Stoughton hides the fact that his health was never as robust as it seemed, Kennedy being plagued by recurring ailments including back difficulties that were the source of frequent and severe pain.

This is a perfect example of the issues of accuracy and recognition within portraits. Whilst the image is an excellent likeness of Kennedy, it is arguably not an accurate representation of him as is focuses purely upon the positives of the man. Although, as Kennedy is sitting in the picture it is possible to argue that there is limited scope to show his ailments yet the fact that he is sitting and not standing can be read as significant.

A more representative form of the control of the vocabulary of the pose would be to associate Drapers portrait to Cecil William Stoughton's behind-the-scene pictures of John, Jacqueline and their children in their public and personal life. These were pivotal in shaping the public's view of the U.S.’s first family. His primary role was to capture iconic relatable images which would both endear and empower the President to the American people highlighting his youth and vibrancy whilst hiding his chronic and recurring heath issues such as the afore mentioned crippling back pain.

The success of this campaign is represented by the main source of grief over Kennedy's death being the loss of the eloquence and idealism that he had brought to his presidency and that made him, in the eyes of many, the embodiment of this country's finest aspirations. This applies these images of Kennedy to the issues of reading of the national history and social and historical illumination through portraiture and art. As all the images were commissioned they were closely and carefully controlled to present exactly the image that they were meant to be it natural or as in the case of Kennedy’s images fake hiding Kennedy’s faults and failings and portraying him as the embodiment of wholesome America.

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