The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family
In the early 1960s, Richard Avedon was commissioned by Harper's Bazaar to create Observations, a column that consisted of a series of nine photographic essays. The subject of the first essay was John F. Kennedy and his young family, who sat for formal black-and-white portraits just three weeks prior to Kennedy's presidential inauguration. Six images appeared in the magazine's February 1961 issue.
That same day, Avedon created more informal color portraits of Kennedy and his family at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach. One of these images ran as the cover of LOOK magazine's February 28 issue, with photographs by Avedon inside. Just before the magazine hit the newsstands and was delivered to over 6.5 million people, a set of photographs, comprised mostly of the LOOK images, was released by the White House and appeared in newspapers across the country.
During his lifetime, Richard Avedon donated more than two hundred images to the Smithsonian Institution, including all of the photographs of the Kennedy family sitting for Harper's Bazaar. Smithsonian curator Shannon Thomas Perich has culled more than seventy-five images from that donation for The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family, making these stunning photographs available for view for the first time. Perich's introductory essay--accompanied by a wealth of archival photographs of both Avedon and the Kennedy family--provides historical background on the two sittings within a political and cultural context and critically examines the work of one of the finest photographers of the twentieth century. A foreword by Robert Dallek, distinguished historian and author of the bet-selling An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, provides authoritative and compelling insight to one of the most fascinating presidents in American history.
here and the reader’s own perspective, the Smithsonian collection can be experienced in a unique, contextualized way. The Photographs IN MANY WAYS, SHE IS HER FATHER’S CHILD— blond, restless, electric with energy. They often have the same expression, eyes slightly narrowed with a keen, questing, quizzical interest in the world. —LOOK, February 28, 1961 When I wanted President Kennedy to play with Caroline, she stood on his lap while he held her by the knees and she leaned way
Museum of American History’s library are a researcher’s best friends. The bevy of interns who have aided with cataloging and research includes Rebecca Bower, Nicole Drinkard, Robyn Einhorn, and Kelly Johnson. Joy Weiner of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art was gracious and enormously helpful. The Collins Design staff members were excellent collaborators, and I share the success of this book with them: Elizabeth Viscott Sullivan, Marta Schooler, Ilana Anger, and Roni Alexrod. I’d also
simple friendliness.” In his article for the Los Angeles Times, Jacques Lowe tried to satisfy Moore’s questions and defend Jackie: And over these years I have come to respect the relatively frail, beautiful and very intelligent Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Much has been said by now about Mrs. Kennedy, and much of what has been said is wrong. Her great poise and tremendous dignity have been called cold, and her very real need for some privacy has been interpreted as shyness. I have always found
to shape public impressions.” Many of those “positive images” were made by photographers and publishers who perpetually promoted Kennedy’s wholesome and youthful appearance. Outdoor action shots of the Kennedys often appeared on the cover of Life. Avedon, who photographed Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and other celebrities for LOOK and Life, was familiar with capturing images that would satisfy the photo editor, celebrities’ images of themselves, and the reader’s curiosity. His photographs
photographs. They were noncommercial, but not purely personal, as they were assigned by a magazine. Avedon’s commercial work was driven by a client’s needs and desires. The noncommercial work—predominately portraiture, but sometimes documentary—was guided by his quest to find the emotions and intellect that lay beneath his subject’s surface. Sometimes the revelation was reflective of the sitter’s inner world; sometimes it was reflective of Avedon’s view of the larger human condition. In a 1975