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American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times

2nd floor South, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)
May 3, 2017 – September 17, 2017

Image for American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times

Senator Kennedy returns home to Massachusetts after accepting the Democratic nomination, July 1960. Photo, © Paul Schutzer, Getty Images

President John F. Kennedy’s administration coincided with a golden age of photojournalism in America. No single politician was photographed more than Kennedy—from his first congressional bid as a decorated war hero in 1946, his fairytale marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, his run for the White House in 1960 and role as commander in chief, to the tragedy of his death in Dallas in 1963.

American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times brings together images culled from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Getty Images, private collections, and the Kennedy family archives that capture the dramatic scope of Kennedy’s life. The exhibition is based on the forthcoming book JFK: A Vision for America. It is one of the most exhaustively researched collections of Kennedy photos ever assembled.

Documentary photographers such as Ed Clark, Ralph Crane, Philippe Halsman, Jacques Lowe, Steve Schapiro, and Sam Vestal captured the optimism and challenges of the early 1960s in some of the finest and most vivid images of the period. Many of the photographs on display are iconic.

American Visionary is organized by Lawrence Schiller of Wiener Schiller Productions; John Jacob, SAAM’s McEvoy Family Curator for Photography, is coordinating the exhibition in D.C.

SAAM’s presentation of American Visionary is the first event in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s yearlong, nationwide celebration that commemorates Kennedy’s centennial year. The exhibition opens in time for what would have been Kennedy’s 100th birthday on May 29.

JFK: A Vision for America features John F. Kennedy’s greatest speeches alongside essays by historians, leading political thinkers, writers, and artists. The book presents Kennedy at his best—thought-provoking, inspiring, eloquent, and wise—on a number of wide-ranging topics, including civil rights, the race to the moon, the environment, immigration, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more. JFK demonstrates the deep relevance of his words today and his lasting power and influence as an American leader and orator.

The list of contributors includes Samantha Power, Congressman John Lewis, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Dalai Lama, Robert Redford, Conan O’Brien, David McCullough, George Packer, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Drew Faust, Tariq Ramadan, Paul Krugman, Kofi Annan, Don DeLillo, Jorge Domínguez, and many others.

JFK: A Vision for America is edited by Stephen Kennedy Smith, John F. Kennedy’s nephew, and Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University (HarperCollins, $45).

American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times is presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in cooperation with the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation. Generous support for the exhibition has been provided by the Governance Institute and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Stephen Kennedy Smith, Wiener Schiller Productions, and Getty Images. The presentation in Washington, D.C. is made possible by the Margery and Edgar Masinter Exhibitions Fund and the Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund.

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