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John F Kennedy Official Portrait

John F Kennedy Official Portrait by Aaron Shikler

John F Kennedy Official Portrait by Aaron Shikler

John F Kennedy Official Portrait by Aaron Shikler was painted posthumously at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy in 1970. Unlike most presidential portraits, Kennedy is depicted as pensive, with eyes downcast and arms folded. It is a character study.

According to Shikler, Mrs. Kennedy’s only stipulation was for him to create an image different from “the way everybody else makes him look, with the bags under his eyes and that penetrating gaze. I’m tired of that image.”

Shikler drew a few sketches based on photographs, one of which was inspired by Ted Kennedy’s somber pose at his brother’s grave, his arms crossed and his head bowed. Jackie chose that sketch as the final pose.

Portraits of Presidents of the United States

Beginning with President George Washington, it has been traditional for the United States president to have an official portrait taken during their time in office, most commonly an oil painting.

This tradition has continued to modern times. Presidents will often display the official portraits of former presidents whom they admire in the Oval Office.

The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting and preserving presidential portraits since its creation in 1962.

John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his work as president concerned relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Kennedy graduated from Harvard University in 1940, before joining the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service.

Kennedy represented a Boston district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior Senator from Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960.

While in the Senate, Kennedy published his book, Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize. In the 1960 presidential election, he narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, the incumbent vice president.

On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated in Dallas. After Kennedy’s death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act and the Revenue Act of 1964.

Kennedy ranks highly in polls of U.S. presidents with historians and the general public. 

John F Kennedy Official Portrait by Aaron Shikler

Jackie Kennedy’s official White House portrait by Shikler

Aaron Shikler

Aaron Shikler (1922 – 2015) was an American artist noted for portraits of American politicians and celebrities. 

Jacqueline Kennedy personally selected Shikler in 1970 to provide the posthumous character study of John F. Kennedy.

Shikler also painted the official White House portraits of First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Nancy Reagan and portraits of the Kennedy children.

John F Kennedy

    • Title:                 John F Kennedy
    • Artist:               Aaron Shikler
    • Date:                1970
    • Medium:          Oil on canvas
    • Dimensions:     Height: 50 in (127 cm); Width: 34 in (86.3 cm)
    • Category:         Popular Portrait Paintings
    • Location:          White House

Aaron Shikler

  • Name:             Aaron Abraham Shikler
  • Born:              1922, Brooklyn, New York City
  • Died:              2015 (aged 93), Manhattan, New York City
  • Nationality:    American
  • Notable Works:

Painting a deceased president

A Virtual Tour of Portraits

 The Presidential Portrait of John F. Kennedy

American Presidents: Life Portraits – John F. Kennedy


“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
– John F. Kennedy


Photo Credit: 1) Aaron Shikler / Public domain.

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