President John F. Kennedy would have turned 100 this past May. A new centennial exhibition commemorating his private and public life opens this week at the New York Historical Society, with hundreds of photos and other artifacts, some never before on view in NYC.
It is one of the most extensively researched collections of Kennedy photos ever assembled, bringing together images from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Getty Images, private collections, and the Kennedy family archives that capture public and private moments from Kennedy’s life.
Some of the photographs on display are iconic; others have never before been published.
American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times is on display June 23, 2017 – January 7, 2018, and also on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., through September 17. 2017. After that, exhibition will travel to museums across the United States.
Kennedy’s administration coincided with a golden age of photojournalism in America. No single politician was photographed more than Kennedy, from his first congressional bid as a decorated war hero in 1946 and his fairy-tale wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953 to his run for the White House in 1960 and the tragedy of his death in Dallas in 1963.
Documentary photographers such as Ed Clark, Lisl Steiner, Ralph Crane, Philippe Halsman, Ted Spiegel Jacques Lowe, Lawrence Schiller, Steve Schapiro, and Sam Vestal captured the optimism and challenges of the early 1960s in some of the finest and most vivid images of the period.
Highlights of American Visionary include images from Kennedy’s private life—such as a 1953 photo booth snapshot of the Kennedy newlyweds, possibly taken on their honeymoon, and a candid 1958 photograph by Ed Clark of Kennedy playing with his baby daughter Caroline in her bassinet.
Images of Kennedy the politician include a 1957 portrait when he served as a Massachusetts senator by Philippe Halsman; a 1960 photograph of Kennedy drawing an unintended audience of young people peering through the window as he prepares for a presidential campaign speech in Baltimore; and a 1961 photograph of the First Couple and others heading to Kennedy’s inauguration ceremony, with the White House blanketed in snow.
Also featured are unforgettable images such as Jacques Lowe’s 1961 photograph of Kennedy standing hunched over his desk in the Oval Office, in an effort to alleviate the pain from his problem back, and a haunting photograph of the shattered First Lady departing the White House on the day of Kennedy’s state funeral in 1963, captured by I.C. Rapoport as a brief glimpse through the crowd.
The exhibition is based on the new book JFK: A Vision for America by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley.
“John F. Kennedy is still seen as a symbol around the world, representing and espousing the best and most universal elements of the American character,” said Stephen Kennedy Smith, Kennedy’s nephew and co-editor of JFK: A Vision for America. “It is our hope that the compelling images of President Kennedy’s life and work on view in this exhibition will remind visitors not only of the values that defined his presidency, but also will introduce him to new audiences and future leaders.”
On Tuesday, July 18, Stephen Kennedy Smith will introduce a special FREE screening of the film PT 109. Cliff Robertson stars in this stirring saga of JFK’s wartime exploits as skipper of a PT boat in the Solomon Islands.
The new book, JFK: A Vision for America, features essays by historians, leading political thinkers, writers, and artists alongside Kennedy’s greatest speeches. The book presents Kennedy at his best—thought-provoking, inspiring, eloquent, and wise—on a number of wide-ranging topics, including civil rights, the race to the moon, the environment, immigration, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more. The book demonstrates the deep relevance of his words today and his lasting power and influence as an American leader and orator. A Vision for America is edited by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University; it is published by HarperCollins and will be available for purchase at the NYHistory Store ($45).