Thursday, June 16, 2011

(Portraits) Andy Warhol, 'Sixteen Jackies', (1964)

Andy Warhol’s “Sixteen Jackies” (completed in 1964) is a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy in the American Pop Art style, painted in response to the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, on 22nd November 1963. Warhol created his portrait using four photographs of Jackie Kennedy he took from LIFE magazine, which he repeated in four rows, four times. The painting recently sold for $20.24million at auction in Sotheby's in New York. (1)

Warhol believed that “reproducing images from popular culture was the visual means for expressing detachment from emotions” (
2), which was something he saw as characteristic of the 1960s. The photographs Warhol used depict, from top to bottom: Jackie stepping off the plane upon arrival in Dallas; in shock at the swearing-in ceremony of former Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson following Kennedy's death; grieving at the Capitol; and smiling in the limousine moments before the assassination. Warhol recalled the moment he heard about Kennedy's death, noting that "I'd been thrilled having Kennedy as president [...] but it didn't bother me that much that he was dead. What bothered me was the way the television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad." (3) His fascination with image and the process of mass media and advertising was a driving force behind his repetitive work. This repetition, with each copied image slightly different from the first - achieved through Warhol's screenprinting techniques - produces paintings that comment on the falseness of trends and consumer mass production. The juxtaposition of smiling photographs of Jackie and grieving photographs can be considered 'before and after' photographs, presenting personal emotions of a woman who has just lost her husband through a horrifying public incident, and also has to deal with it in the public eye.

The painting has also inspired pieces of poetry; Paul Hoover's eponymously titled poem, "Sixteen Jackies", makes reference to the outfit Jackie is wearing in two of the photos that were taken on the day of Kennedy's assassination:

"a wall
of Jackies

in that
famous suit

with its
blood decoration." (4)

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