National Portrait Gallery Honors Robert Kennedy with Viewing of Roy Lichtenstein’s 1968 Painting

bobby Kennedy painted by Roy Lichenstein
50 years ago Robert Kennedy was gunned down. The National Gallery honors his legacy. “One Year: 1968, an American Odyssey” will be on exhibition from June 29 through May 19, 2019, at the National Portrait Gallery.

Coinciding with Robert (Bobby) Kennedy’s  50th anniversary of the senator’s assassination, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will celebrate the life of the young Senator whose life ended brutally at the end of a barrel with a viewing of Roy Lichenstein’s portrait commission in 1968 for a cover of Time magazine.  The image will be on display through July 8 in the museum’s first-floor north gallery.

When presented with his image by Lichenstein, Kennedy good-naturedly said, ” I thought your cover picture was marvelous, but I don’t have red spots all over my face” and approved it nevertheless.

Kennedy was assassinated June 5, 1968, exactly 50 years ago today, adding to the tragedy the Kennedys already felt after the loss of John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy who was also assassinated five years earlier. Bobby’s loss further wrapped the legacy of the Kennedy family in mourning and added to the nation’s loss. The younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy opposed the Johnson administration’s Vietnam War policies and was markedly progressive, had served as the U.S. attorney general (1961–64) and as a senator from New York (1965–1968). Roy Lichenstein died September 29, 29917 in Manhattan, New York.

gun in america roy lichenstein
Gun in America portrait by Lichenstein

Shortly after Kennedy was shot, Time commissioned another cover from Lichtenstein to highlight the issue of gun control. A gun pointed at the viewer, though drawn in the same cartoonlike style as the Kennedy portrait, seemed haunting.  The Portrait Gallery’s collection holds over 2,000 original artworks created for Time. When asked about the commission by a reporter for Bomb Magazine, Lichenstein said, “In fact, I made them both at the same time, and then Kennedy was shot. Which was pretty shocking. I had done the gun before he was shot and they published it afterward.”

Lichtenstein’s portrait of Bobby Kennedy appeared on the cover of Time magazine’s May 24, 1968, edition.  The National Portrait Gallery describes it as, “His Pop art style and bright colors create a sense of energy that evokes the young presidential hopeful’s personality.”

The public is invited to view the painting from June 8 until July through July 8 in the museum’s first-floor north gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W. in Washington, D.C.

Photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery. Copyrighted.


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