Andy Warhol, Jackie
Size: 20" x 16 1/8"
In the face of the woman whose feelings were reproduced in all the media to such an extent that no better historical document on the exhibitionism of American emotional values is conceivable. R. Crone, Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 29 Andy Warhol began his 1964 series of paintings of Jackie Kennedy taken from newspaper photos from shortly before, during and immediately after the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Out of all of the available imagery surrounding the tragedy, Warhol carefully chose eight photographs of the First Lady to use in his paintings. The image used in the present lot was taken from a newspaper photograph of Jackie immediately after her husband’s death when she was on board Airforce One standing next to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as he took the oath of office as President. Jackie was still wearing the same blood-stained pink suit that she had worn while riding in the motorcade when her husband was shot. According to Lady Bird Johnson’s diary, Jackie refused to change saying “I want them to see what they have done to Jack.” This powerful moment is captured elegantly in Warhol’s canvas. Silkscreened in black over blue, Warhol employed this economy of means to create a compelling and unforgettable image. The muted blue and the black of the background and Jackie’s hair combine to create a simple, poignant reflection of loss, accentuated by the close composition cropping around the First Lady’s head. All of the details of the moment—the plane, the future president, and all but the collar of the blood stained suit- are removed from the frame and so complete focus is on Jackie. With her head cast downward and her dark hair partially shielding her eye, Jackie’s intensity is emphasized in Warhol’s cropping, creating the iconic image of Jackie standing in for a nation in mourning. It is not just a portrait of Jackie, but a portrait of America with its innocence lost and its unbelievable sadness. Warhol’s paintings of Jackie are a central part in his oeuvre, along the lines of his Soup Cans, and Jackie is often referred to as one of the three ‘Women of Warhol’ along with stars Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. “The images of Marilyn, Liz and Jackie, like the Soup Cans, are consumed by the public in mass doses. Yet through Andy’s paintings, they have taken on new meaning. These frozen images are modern-day Madonnas. Andy was a strict Catholic. His Marilyn, Liz and Jackie became religious relics and, like Leonardo’s La Gioconda, they are portraits of women radiating beauty. They are not public stars but are Andy’s paintings, icons of our time. They are, in essence, holy.” (P. Brant, “Uh, Let’s Go,” Women of Warhol: Marilyn, Liz & Jackie, New York, 2000, n.p.) The painting of Jackie in the present lot particularly fits this description as religious icon as Warhol was so astute to recognize her, and this image of her, as the symbol of the feelings of the whole country upon the death of our president. While she still has equal beauty, glamour, and fame to Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, she is called upon to be more—to intercede on our behalf with God, to carry our sorrow, to be the image of our pain. The quiet beauty of this small painting holds all of the transformative capacity of a religious relic. An ethereal language suffuses Warhol’s fanzine mythos. Marilyn, Liz and Jackie—a cult of movies and fame that, for Andy, revived the calendar of saints and divine intercessors. Like all ritual artists. Imagery to Andy is both representation and actuality, image and icon. Andy consecrated celebrity in the guise of the sacerdotal. In this sense, earlier manifestations of Marilyn, Liz and Jackie are to be found in the sentimental holy cards distriubuted on Sundays and Feast Days to the church-goers of Andy’s Pittsburgh Catholic boyhood. Andy blithely submitted to his alternative Trinity’s stellar autocracy. Absolutism equals absolution. Andy celebrated the divinity and glory of Marilyn, Liz and Jackie in a Mass of repetition, monotonously intoned, unto the heavenly measurelessness inherent to the grid and/or serial format—the same image again and again, stretching away to infinity. In theory, all three should have been depicted according to Andy’s vision of the screen star scripted at home and endemic to popular culture at the time. But they are not. Instead, they are stark and unnerving, imagery suggesting a repressed ancient memory. And for good reason. R. Pincus-Witten, Women of Warhol: Marilyn, Liz & Jackie, New York, 2000, n.p.