Aaron Shikler’s portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is considered one of his most iconic works. Known for his portraits of American statesmen and celebrities, Shikler aimed to capture Mrs. Kennedy Onassis’s beauty as well as the haunted look in her eyes following her husband’s violent death.
Mrs. Kennedy Onassis was an accomplished woman she worked at the Washington Times-Herald and obtained an education at Vassar, the University of Grenoble, and the Sorbonne. Shikler painted her wearing a black dress that complemented her striking features. The painting caused a stir even before it was unveiled at the White House in February 1971 because it showed Mrs. Kennedy Onassis without jewelry or any symbol of power.
Shikler’s portrait stands out due to its unique style that blends classical composition with a modernist palette. He used muted colors to create depth, particularly on Mrs. Kennedy Onassis’s face where he utilized green-tinged hues to convey sadness and melancholy effectively.
The portrait continues to hang in the White House today and is part of its permanent collection. It has become one of Shikler’s most recognizable works and reminds viewers not only of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis but also honors President John F. Kennedy’s legacy in American history through their shared experience during his presidency and untimely demise.