Remarkable assortment of 19 original negatives of President John F. Kennedy at the ‘Winter White House,’ the Kennedys Palm Beach residency at 1095 N. Ocean Boulevard, in December 1962 and January 1963. The images were taken by photographer Eddie Johnson, who traveled to the Floridian getaway as the personal assistant of Elaine de Kooning, a celebrated portrait artist recently commissioned to paint President Kennedy’s official portrait for the Truman Library.
A total of nine strips, ranging in size from 2.5 x 2.5 to 2.5 x 8.25, feature 19 images of either JFK, De Kooning, or both, with all but two images featuring the president, who is either captured in a full-length stance or in a seated pose reading or conversing with Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman. The negatives include their original sleeves, which are dated either December 29, 1962 or January 3, 1963. Also included are two 35mm negative strips, with one containing six images and the other three images, with subjects similar to the above negatives.
Additionally, the lot features four handwritten letters and one typed letter from Johnson to his family, dated between December 21, 1962 and January 15, 1963, with the earliest letter reading in part: “From Palm Beach! I am finally going to spend Christmas in a place where it’s warm (I hope!). Elaine de Kooning is going to Palm Beach to paint the President’s portrait (yes, J.F.K., himself!!) and she’s taking me along as her assistant. I leave today in a Rambler station wagon—she is going down by train.—I know that this all sounds incredible, but even Elaine can hardly believe it…Elaine decided she would want photographs & canvasses stretched, etc. in Fla., and apparently decided I’m the only one she could trust.”
Another letter dated January 8, 1963, reads in part: “I hardly know how to tell you everything—first I suppose, as is obvious by the photos, we did manage to get into the ‘inner sanctum’ to do the portrait! In fact, I think we became almost part of the house hold & ended up being very familiar with all Kennedy’s secret service men, secretary, etc., etc. Today was JFK’s last day in Palm Beach, but Elaine has decided to stick around another week or two…We then got him to ourselves a couple of times on different days for short periods of time (this is when I took the most photos)…JFK finally had to take a break from the conference & come over to satisfy his curiosity , & the whole group began to go over the drawings & small paintings. Jackie picked out one she liked & Elaine gave it to her—it was actually the best one she had done. Elaine & I agree. Mrs. JFK has a pretty good eye.” In overall fine condition.
Accompanied by a group of 13 modern photo prints, 11 matte-finish and two glossy, either 8 x 10 or 10 x 8, containing select images of the president and De Kooning, with reverse of glossy photos bearing an Eddie Johnson copyright stamp dated to 1963; a CD and two DVD-R discs containing the images; a letter from a Smithsonian representative relating to the forwarding of the images; and two typed draft letters from Johnson to President Bill Clinton, which notes: “Only four of my photos from this period have ever been published: two in Life Magazine, May 8, 1964 and two in the Sotheby’s Catalogue for the auction of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Estate.” An exceptional array of unique JFK photographs, handsomely portraying the president while on 'working holiday' at the fabled 'Winter White House.'
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.