Jackie Kennedy papers reveal taste for fine art


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Is it any surprise that Jacqueline Kennedy had sophisticated and exacting tastes when it came to fine arts? In case you needed proof, new papers released by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston show the extent to which the first lady oversaw White House renovations, including securing paintings and other works of art.

The documents, released Monday, contain thousands of pages revealing new details about the Kennedys’ first years in office and preparations for Jacqueline Kennedy’s famous televised White House tour in 1962, which aired 50 years ago on this date. Tom Putnam, director of the Kennedy Library, said in a statement that the papers show the range of the first lady’s understanding of ‘art, history and public diplomacy.’


As reported in the Washington Post, the papers show that Kennedy created the White House Historical Assn. and the Fine Arts Committee within a month of moving into the White House. The documents also show that she formed relationships with philanthropists and collectors of fine antiques, including Walter Annenberg, who donated a portrait of Benjamin Franklin to the White House.

The Franklin portrait was painted in 1767 by David Martin. It was described in a document as ‘the first major acquisition of art for the White House’ under the then-new Kennedy administration.

Jacqueline Kennedy also managed the transfer of four Cezanne paintings to the White House that had been hanging in the National Gallery of Art.

Monday’s release of documents comes at a time of heightened fascination with all things Kennedy. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. The Boston Globe reported this week that the newly released documents show that Jacqueline Kennedy was instrumental in the passage of legislation designating the White House as a museum.

Some of the documents will be on display in the Kennedy Museum, the Globe reported, but most of the collection will be kept in an archival room and will be available on request.


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-- David Ng