Nov 16, 2023 - Sale 2653

Sale 2653 - Lot 67

Price Realized: $ 11,875
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 3,000 - $ 5,000
John F. Kennedy, Seated with Dog.

Charcoal on Strathmore laid paper, 1963. 635x485 mm; 25x19 inches. Signed and dated "1/3/1963" in charcoal, lower right recto, and signed and dated in charcoal, verso.

Provenance: Cambridge Artists League, Inc., with the ink stamp verso; Graham Gallery, New York, with the label; Christie's, New York, March 11, 1988, sale 6552, lot 314; Christie's, New York, January 15-16, 2008, sale 1956, lot 501; Vered Gallery, East Hampton, with the label; private collection, New York.

De Kooning (1918-1989) received a commission in 1962 to paint an official portrait of JFK for the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. According to the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., where there is an oil portrait from these sittings, "Elaine was an unorthodox choice for the task, not only because she was female, painting in the abstract expressionist style, and highly individualistic, but also because she had executed few commissioned works in her career. Her portraits were primarily of close friends in the art world and of family, including her husband, artist Willem de Kooning. But Elaine's skill at recording the essence of a subject in a few sittings won her the job. She traveled to Florida in late December 1962 to meet with the president in Palm Beach.

After their sessions ended in January 1963, Elaine returned to her studio, using her studies and published photographs to refine the portrait. She was still working on it when she learned that Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas on November 22. It was months before she could return to the project and attempt to express the vitality of the man she met in Palm Beach."

Of the sittings and capturing Kennedy's likeness, the artist noted, "All my sketches from life as he talked on the phone, jotted down notes, read papers, held conferences, had to be made very quickly, catching features and gestures, half for memory, even as I looked, because he never sat still. It was not so much that he seemed restless, rather, he sat like an athlete or college boy, constantly shifting in his chair. At first this impression of youthfulness was a hurdle, as was the fact that he never sat still."