To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (November 22, 1963), New York Public Library is remembering the horrific tragedy that shook the nation—and the world. A special exhibition, “Dearest Jackie”: On the Death of JFK, features the work of 20th-century masters Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as a heart-wrenching photograph by the great Elliott Erwitt. At the heart of the exhibition is a poignant condolence letter to Jacqueline Kennedy from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., written within hours of the assassination. An intimate associate of both Kennedy and the First Lady, Schlesinger puts into words the grief and despair of a nation.
On Nov. 22, 1963, the nation was stunned by the horrifying assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The expressions of grief that followed took every possible form, from heartfelt personal tributes to grand, grave public displays.
The New York Public Library has brought together a small selection of items from its collections that depict the nation’s grief for the free display, “Dearest Jackie”: On The Death of JFK. The pop up exhibition will be at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street from Nov. 20 until Dec. 1 in the third floor McGraw Rotunda.
The items being displayed include:
A poignant letter of condolence to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy from her husband’s close aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The letter begins “Dearest Jackie,” and was written on the evening of the assassination.
One of 14 prints in artist Andy Warhol’s Flash – Nov. 22, 1963 series, which incorporated newspaper and television images connected with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Warhol’s image vividly conveys the excitement around Kennedy’s presidency and the ensuing horror of his assassination.
A gelatin silver print of Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s funeral in Arlington, Virginia, taken by Elliott Erwitt. The image is one of the most heart-wrenching depictions of the devastated First Lady.
Ark, a lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg, which prominently includes a picture of President Kennedy amongst other unrelated images. Dante’s journey through Hell and the dark halo of lithographic marks that surround the president help to convey the country’s mood in the aftermath of the assassination.
The objects in the exhibition come from several divisions of the Library, including Manuscripts and Archives, The Print and Photography Collections of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, and the Spencer Collection.
In addition to the display of items, the Library will also be collecting stories from the public about where they were when the tragic events occurred, and what they remember about Nov. 22, 1963. The public can submit these stories starting Nov. 20 at the Library’s Facebook page at facebook.com/nypl.
“As we are all reflecting on one of the most pivotal events of our times, the tragic death of John F. Kennedy, the Library is eager to inform and inspire public deliberation by presenting these historic artifacts/documents,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “The items featured each help capture how JFK changed the nation, and how his loss broke our collective hearts.”
“Dearest Jackie”: On the Death of JFK will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Note that the Library will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 28 for Thanksgiving.
Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.