A Man Advertising Himself

President Elect, 1960-61/1964, James Rosenquist


Collage for President Elect, 1960–61. Cropped poster, magazine clippings and mixed media, 35.6 x 60.5 cm. Collection of the artist


The painting President Elect (1960–61/1964) includes a portrait of John F. Kennedy borrowed from a 1960 presidential campaign poster. James Rosenquist juxtaposed this portrait with images of middle-class wealth and consumerism—advertisements from Life magazine—in order to say, “Here is this new guy who wants to be President of the United States… what is he offering us?” Kennedy was the first presidential candidate to fully utilize the mass media in his campaign, and the painting is about “a man advertising himself.”

The Embodiment of a National Tragedy

Retroactive I, Robert Rauschenberg, 1963


Retroactive I is widely considered one of the finest of Robert Rauschenberg’s silkscreen paintings. Central to the work is an iconic portrait of President John F. Kennedy, a symbol of progress and promise. Ironically, Rauschenberg ordered the silkscreen of this image during the summer preceding the president’s assassination. He overcame his initial reluctance to use it following the trauma of November 1963, in part because he was committed theoretically to a non-hierarchical interest in all phenomena in the world around him. Nothing, however, can separate the power of this image from its emblematic reading as the embodiment of a national tragedy.


Skyway, Robert Rauschenberg, 1964


Signs, Robert Rauschenberg, 1970

A Verb, a Noun and an Image

“A painting to me is primarily a verb, not a noun, an event first and only secondarily an image”
Elaine De Kooning


Elaine de Kooning sketching President John F. Kennedy at his West Palm Beach residence. Between 1961 and 1963


Elaine de Kooning (March 12, 1918/1920 – February 1, 1989) was an Abstract Expressionist, Figurative Expressionist painter in the post-World War II era and editorial associate for Art News magazine. On December 9, 1943, she married artist Willem de Kooning, who was a highly influential artist in the Abstract Expressionism movement.



She was born Elaine Marie Catherine Fried in 1918 (she later gave her birth year as 1920) in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of four children born to Charles Frank Fried and Mary Ellen O’Brien Fried, she was raised in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. Her artistic sensibility was encouraged by her mother, who took her to museums and taught her to draw what she saw. After graduating from Erasmus Hall High School, then brief studies at Hunter College in New York City, in 1937 she attended the Leonardo da Vinci Art School, Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1938 she went on to study at the American Artists School in New York City.



Working and teaching outside the shadow of her more famous husband, de Kooning gained acclaim as one of America’s premier artists. In 1962 she received a commission from the White House to paint the portrait of President John F. Kennedy; an impressive honor bestowed upon an artist commonly associated with the bohemian New York School of painting. De Kooning then spent the better part of 1963 fine-tuning the portrait, collecting hundreds of photographs of Kennedy, and drawing short-hand sketches of him whenever he appeared on TV. The resulting portrait remains one of de Kooning’s most well known and celebrated paintings, and easily stands out in the long line of presidential portraits.