“Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize.”
-Yousuf Karsh, 1967
ICONIC PHOTOGRAPH BY YOUSUF KARSH, INSCRIBED BY KENNEDY IN INK ON THE IMAGE.
Yousuf Karsh’s masterful portrait of John F. Kennedy, taken on August 25, 1960, just weeks after he accepted the Democratic nomination, captured the nation’s imagination. By 1960 Kennedy was a rising star in American politics and this photograph embodied the aspirations and idealism of Kennedy and his presidential campaign. This image was widely circulated and is regarded as one of the most famous and influential portraits of JFK, helping to shape his public image as a young and vibrant leader.
In this portrait Karsh depicts Kennedy in an introspective pose. The lighting emphasizes Kennedy’s strong profile and the shadows and highlights accentuate Kennedy’s dignified features. It is believed that Karsh swapped ties with Kennedy just minutes before photographing him because he thought his own tie created a better image. (Enman) Karsh’s photograph symbolized the promise of Kennedy’s presidency and became an enduring representation of Kennedy’s political legacy. The image has been reproduced countless times and exemplifies both Kennedy’s charismatic leadership and the era of the early 1960s. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, LIFE Magazine’s memorial edition featured a color portrait from this 1960 sitting.
This photo is signed and inscribed ’To Dwight McKay, Best Wishes, John Kennedy’ in ink on the white area of his shirt collar. Dwight McKay (1915-1993) graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1939, joined the Army in 1942, became an Army lieutenant, and was assigned to the Judge’s Advocate Section of General Patton’s 3rd Army as a war crimes investigator. After the war McKay was an attorney during the Nuremberg Trials and was a magistrate in the trials of defendants who were arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic Convention. (Thornton) Judge McKay was a longtime supporter of JFK and attended numerous Cook County Democratic Party dinners with President Kennedy in Chicago in the early 1960s. (Remarks at Cook County Democratic Party dinner)
Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), one of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century, produced distinct portraits of scientists, artists, popular cultural icons, and politicians that eventually made him as famous as some of those in front of his camera. Karsh simultaneously humanized and venerated celebrities in his work. Eventually almost every person of note was “Karshed.” The journalist George Perry once wrote in the Sunday Times, “When the famous start thinking of immortality, they call for Karsh of Ottawa.” (Pearson) In this iconic image that we have on offer, Karsh brilliantly captured the appeal and intelligence of John F. Kennedy as well as the hopes and ambitions of his presidency.
Silver gelatin photograph. 50.5x40.5 cm (20x16"). Printed in an exceptionally large format. The inscription covers the white lapel of his shirt and extends to the dark collar of his suit, where it is somewhat obscured. Slight bumps to corners, edges with a touch of rubbing and barely discernible silvering in the emulsion; near fine. Handsomely framed under full UV-protecting museum glass to a full size (with frame) of 20x24 inches.
Charles Enman. “‘The Last of His Breed’: The Famed Photographer's Life in Boston was Full of Conversation, Friendship and Activity. Charles Enman Reports.: [Final Edition].” The Ottawa Citizen, July 14, 2002.
Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files, Box 910, Acceptance Speech of Senator Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, California, 15 July 1960. JFK Library.
Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. President’s Office Files. Speech Files. Remarks at Cook County Democratic Party dinner, Chicago, Illinois, 28 April 1961. JFK Library.
Papers of John F. Kennedy. Presidential Papers. President’s Office Files. Speech Files. Remarks at Cook County Democratic Party dinner, Chicago, Illinois, 19 October 1962. JFK Library.
Richard Pearson. “Yousuf Karsh, 93.” The Washington Post. July 14, 2002.
Jerry Thornton. “Retired Judge Dwight McKay, 78.” Chicago Tribune. February 8, 1993.
Price: $8,500 .