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Collections Sixteen Jackies

Collections Sixteen Jackies

Title
Sixteen Jackies
Artist
Andy Warhol
Date
1964
Dimensions
unframed 80.375 × 64.375 × inches
Materials
acrylic, enamel on canvas
Location
Not on view

Object Details

Type
Paintings (Paintings)
Accession Number
1968.2
Inscriptions
in pencil 4th panel from left (when looking at face of painting) 2nd row on reverse bottom edge of canvas over stretcher"Andy Warhol 64" in pencil four bottom panels from left to right (when looking at face of painting) 1st, 3rd, 4th on reverse bottom edge of canvas over stretcher, 2nd on reverse top edge of canvas over stretcher “Andy Warhol 64”
Physical Description
4 different poses of Jackie repeated four times secured together in four rows. Source image photograph by Henri Dauman, 1963
Credit Line
Art Center Acquisition Fund, 1968

object label Andy Warhol, 16 Jackies (1964) Walker Art Center, 1999

“The more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away and the better and emptier you feel.”–Andy Warhol, 1975

For Warhol and fellow Pop artists, reproducing images from popular culture was the visual means for expressing detachment from emotions, an attitude they regarded as characteristic of the 1960s. Like droning newscasts, repetition dissipates meaning and with it the capacity of images to move or disturb. Warhol created 16 Jackies in response to the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event whose mass-media coverage reached an unparalleled number of people.

The four images of Jacqueline Kennedy, each repeated four times, were enlargements of news photographs that appeared widely and continually in the media after the assassination. Taken from issues of Life magazine, the images depict, from top to bottom: Jackie stepping off the plane upon arrival at Love Field in Dallas; stunned at the swearing-in ceremony for Lyndon B. Johnson aboard Air Force One after the president’s death; grieving at the Capitol; and smiling in the limousine before the assassination. 16 Jackies combines a number of themes important in Warhol’s work, such as his fascination with American icons and celebrities, his interest in the mass media and the dissemination of imagery, and his preoccupation with death.

Label text for Andy Warhol, 16 Jackies (1964), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

object label Andy Warhol, 16 Jackies (1964) Walker Art Center, 1998

“I’d been thrilled having Kennedy as president; he was handsome, young, smart–but it didn’t bother me that much that he was dead. What bothered me was the way the television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad.”–Andy Warhol

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Andy Warhol began his series of “Jackie paintings” in response to the media blitz that followed the incident. 16 Jackies is a grid of four different images based on news photos of Jacqueline Kennedy from international press coverage of JFK’s death.

As in Brillo Boxes (1964/1969, also on view here), the artist elevates commercial iconography to the status of fine art. In so doing, Warhol allows his viewer to consider the overlap of things that American culture values: wealth and success, human emotion, and artistic expression.

Label text for Andy Warhol, 16 Jackies (1964), from the exhibition Selections from the Permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 8, 1996 to April 4, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center

curatorial commentary Richard Flood discusses Andy Warhol’s 16 Jackies (1964) Richard Flood, September 1999

Jackie Kennedy has this place in the culture that is very confusing and very interesting that all came out of that day, that funeral, where the images that Warhol selected from came from. It was more than a marker in this country and, in a funny sort of way, through her choice of ritual to allow the country to begin to move ahead after what was an unbelievably traumatic event, I think people just never forgot and could never thank her enough for … At a moment of really incredible difficulty in this country, learning to mourn, she actually was able to shape a mourning ritual that allowed everyone to participate on some level. I don’t know that the life she went on to live was of any great significance to anyone other than her and her family and that’s as it should be. She became a private citizen. But, I think that moment is a very, very big moment and kind of Whitmanesque in a funny sort of way. It’s a deep kind of poetry that resonates around that time and those images of her. What she pulled together at that time is very much a collage from a variety of different possible scenarios and she made it history. In America, where ritual tends to be a very awkward thing, that she created something that really was a classic was amazing.

Richard Flood, Chief Curator, Walker Art Center, commenting on Andy Warhol’s 16 Jackies (1964), during the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 1999.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

catalogue entry Andy Warhol, 16 Jackies (1964) Walker Art Center, 1998

Although Warhol was already impressed with the glamour of Jackie Kennedy by 1962,1 he was unmoved by the news of John Kennedy’s assassination the following year. He later recalled:

_I heard the news over the radio when I was alone painting in my studio. I don’t think I missed a stroke. I wanted to know what was going on out there, but that was the extent of my reaction…. Henry Geldzahler wanted to know why I wasn’t more upset, so I told him about the time I was walking in India and saw a bunch of people in a clearing having a ball because somebody they really liked had just died and how I realized then that everything was just how you decided to think about it. I’d been thrilled having Kennedy as president; he was handsome, young, smart–but it didn’t bother me that much that he was dead. What bothered me was the way the television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad. It seemed like no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from the thing…. John Quinn, the playwright … was moaning over and over, “But Jackie was the most glamorous First Lady we’ll every get.”_2

For Warhol, the visual means for expressing detachment from emotions, an attitude he regarded as characteristic of the 1960s in general,3 was through the replication of images. Like the droning repetition of newscasts, the device dissipates meaning, and with it the capacity of images to move or disturb: “The more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away and the better and emptier you feel."4

The sixteen faces of Jackie Kennedy in Warhol’s painting were blown up from four news photos that appeared ubiquitously in the media after the assassination. From top to bottom, the images are of Jackie smiling at Love Field on arrival in Dallas; stunned at the swearing-in ceremony for L.B.J. on Air Force One after the president’s death; grieving at the Capitol; and in the limousine before the shooting. The top three appeared in the 24 November and 6 December 1963 issues of Life magazine: the first by an unidentified photographer; the second and third by Cecil Stoughton and Fred Ward, respectively; the source for the bottom one has not been identified, although a U.P.I. photograph similar to it was reproduced in Newsweek. Eventually, in Warhol’s view, these images became so familiar that neutral identification is all that the viewer experiences.

Warhol make this point by repeating each of the four image of Jackie four times, in a simple well-designed non-sequential alternation of strips of "before and after” pictures. The high-contrast, low-information pictures, each as different from the others as one reproduction from another, are cropped to focus on Jackie’s face, rhythmically directed one way along one row and then the other along the next. A deliberately careless look gives the painting a sense of chance and hurry, suggesting the quick duplication and dissemination of images.5 Additionally, expressivity is, in a sense, absent from the images themselves. Public expectation forces the face of the politician’s wife into a perpetual, meaningless smile, while shock renders the widow as inexpressive and numb as one of Warhol’s somnambulant superstars. The two faces, perceived by Warhol as equally unreal, have been further sapped of meaning by the mythologizing American culture and the techniques of reproduction, and are finally emptied of meaning by the artist’s stylization.

1 See Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, PoPism: The Warhol ‘60s (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 36.

2 Ibid., p. 60.

3 Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), p. 27.

4 Warhol, PoPism, p. 50. It is interesting to note that 16 Jackies ignited the passion of a vandal who inscribed the words “HOGWASH/USA” on the panel third from the top on the leftmost column and “BLACK” on the panel second from the top on the rightmost column in ballpoint pen in November 1967; the inscriptions were successfully removed by Daniel Goldreyer in New York by late January 1968.

5 Warhol describes the silkscreening process he used, which allowed him to turn the work of reproducing the design over to Gerard Malanga and other assistants: “You pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple-quick and chancy;” Warhol, PoPism, p. 22.

Walker Art Center: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1990), p. 519.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center