Wyeth’s Kennedy studies go on view

Sep 29, 2017
This oil on canvas study for Jamie Wyeth’s 1967 “Portrait of President John F. Kennedy” is on loan to the Farnsworth Art Museum from the Collection of Jamie and Phyllis Wyeth.

Rockland — To mark John F. Kennedy’s centennial, the Farnsworth Art Museum will open an exhibit of studies by Jamie Wyeth for his renowned portrait of John F. Kennedy Friday, Oct. 6. The opening will coincide with the season’s final free community opening as part of First Friday at the Farnsworth from 5 to 8 p.m.

May 29, 2017, marked the 100th birthday of Kennedy, America’s 35th president, whose assassination in Dallas in 1963 shocked and saddened the world. Many who were alive at the time can still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of his death.

Three years after the horrific event, 21-year-old Jamie Wyeth embarked on a series of preparatory sketches for a posthumous portrait of the president known for his eloquence, diplomacy and optimism. The challenge was not only to portray a man Wyeth never met, but also to paint the portrait of such a well-known public figure. Kennedy would have been 50 years old in 1967 when Wyeth completed the painting, now also 50 and recently acquired by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

For two years, Wyeth took on intensive research, immersing himself in photographs, articles and films depicting JFK as he commenced his drawings for the portrait. In order to understand as much as possible about the president’s mannerisms and speech patterns shared in common with his younger brothers, Wyeth also spent many hours sketching Robert and Edward Kennedy during their day-to-day activities. Wyeth said in an interview soon after the portrait was completed, that he had “wanted the president’s face so engraved in my mind that I could place him in any situation I wanted.”

Several of these candid pencil studies of the Kennedy brothers, and a color study of JFK made in preparation for his now famous portrait, are presented. The small show will be on display in the hallway leading from the library to the museum store.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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