The assassination of US President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 had a profound effect on the history of the Cold War. At once suspicions abounded that the murder was the result of a conspiracy, a theory that is still held to by the majority of American citizens. The news that Kennedy’s suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a communist who had defected to the Soviet Union for three years prior to the shooting increased fears that the Cold War had claimed its most prized victim. The feelings of shock and loss that consumed the American public were eloquently expressed by philosopher Hannah Arendt in the New York Review of Books.
Considering the momentousness of Kennedy’s assassination, it is surprising that there is only one known contemporary painting of the event. Lincoln Convertible was created by British pop artist, Gerald Laing, at a time when he was living and working in New York City. The painting was considered so controversial in the aftermath of Kennedy’s murder that Laing’s dealer refused to exhibit it and it was kept in storage for 30 years. The 3m-long painting incorporates footage of the assassination from the famous Zapruder film, depicting the president and his wife, Jackie, travelling in their Lincoln car just prior to the attack.
To mark the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death the painting is currently on display at Tate Britain in London.
Image: Gerald Laing, Lincoln Convertible, 1964. Gerald Laing Estate, Kinkell. Courtesy of the Gerald Laing Estate © ACS, 2013.