Norman Rockwell captured the likenesses of many national figures during his career, and in 1960, he was commissioned by The Saturday Evening Post to paint portraits of Presidential candidates Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy would appear on the October 29th cover and Nixon on the November 5th.
To prepare for the painting of Kennedy, Rockwell arranged to pose and photograph Kennedy at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. When Rockwell arrived, Kennedy, in his pajamas, leaned out of an upstairs window and told Rockwell to go right in, and that he’d be down in a minute. While Kennedy ate his breakfast, Rockwell chose a room for the session. Rockwell suggested it would be best to use a dignified pose that didn’t emphasize Kennedy’s youth (he was just forty-three); Kennedy agreed. After photos were taken, the two men walked to the breakwater to see Kennedy’s sailboat. Now more relaxed, and feeling he had been a little stiff during the photo session, Kennedy suggested they return to the house for a second shoot. Rockwell was pleased with the result: “His expression was just what I wanted—serious with a certain dignity, but relaxed and pleasant, not hard.” The portrait was published on the October 29, 1960 cover of The Saturday Evening Post, and again, bordered with a black band of mourning for the slain President, on December 14, 1963.
The Norman Rockwell Museum is fortunate to include this compelling portrait in its permanent collection. The original painting is currently on view at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, as part of the our national traveling exhibition, American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.
Learn more about the Commemorative John F. Kennedy Issue of The Saturday Evening Post