Kennedy portrait
December 9, 2003 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Why is Kennedy looking down in his Official White House portrait? A friend of mine asked me this and it's driving me crazy. I can't find the answer anywhere, although I did discover that the painting was done in 1970 by Aaron Shikler, so my guess is that he is looking down because it was painted after his death, but of course I can't find a definite answer anywhere.
posted by banished to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Here is the portrait in question.
posted by anathema at 7:44 PM on December 9, 2003

It could be that the artist was looking for a dramatic, non-traditional pose...?
posted by stonerose at 8:00 PM on December 9, 2003

The pose makes him look very pensive and the portrait's more artistic-looking than all the others -- I like it. No idea if there might be some secret meaning to it, though.
posted by contessa at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2003

It's a character study, much like Rodin's "Thinker".

In the sketch, JFK is depicted in deep contemplation, as if conversing with his staff on matters of state.

The former president had an extensive history of medical ailments.
From the body posture in the sketch, it's possible Shikler was attempting an analogy between the "weight of the world" and Kennedy's own limitations.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:04 PM on December 9, 2003

Oh, yeah - the researcher in the weblink, Robert Dallek- no relation.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:06 PM on December 9, 2003 [1 favorite]

I found this:
"The portrait of John F. Kennedy takes center stage, however, positioned next to the landing leading to the family quarters. Rendered in 1970 by Aaron Shikler, the painting presents JFK with folded arms and downcast eyes.

"It's a beautiful portrait that has gotten a lot of comment from the public, because his head is sort of bowed," Monkman says. "The artist said he definitely wanted to portray him as a thinking president. With the muted colors, it's a very sensitive painting."

posted by anastasiav at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2003

The official portrait of my company's president when I first arrived in Japan showed him looking down much like this. I thought it was to make him look humble.
posted by planetkyoto at 1:02 AM on December 10, 2003

How humble can one appear if one has an "official portrait"?
posted by jpoulos at 6:40 AM on December 10, 2003

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