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MFA acquires Jamie Wyeth portait of JFK

David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

Artist Jamie Wyeth at the MFA recently with his portrait of JFK in the background.

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We’ve been looking forward for some time to the upcoming Jamie Wyeth retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, fans as we are of Wyeth’s unique brand of realism. What we didn’t know until Monday was that the MFA has acquired Wyeth’s portrait of John F. Kennedy, which was commissioned by the Kennedys after the president’s death (and painted when the artist was only 20). It’s the first work by Wyeth to enter the museum’s collection, and will be among the
100 or so paintings included in the retrospective that opens July 16. (We’re partial to his pumpkins and the landscapes of midcoast Maine.) Monday, in advance of the opening, Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late US senator Ted Kennedy, stopped by to take a look at the JFK portrait, along with Heather Campion, CEO of the JFK Library, and the MFA’s Elliot Bostwick Davis, curator of the exhibition. While some works in the show will be familiar to fans of the artist, Davis told us that many other pieces have been culled from private collections, including from the Wyeth family. She said the JFK portrait is a “hugely generous gift” to the museum and has great resonance for the people of Boston. Wyeth, of course, is a member of a whole family of artists: His grandfather N. C. Wyeth, his father, Andrew Wyeth, and aunt Carolyn Wyeth all were painters of considerable renown. (In case you’re wondering, the MFA has 16 paintings by Andrew Wyeth in its collection.) Jamie Wyeth, 68, trained with his aunt after leaving school at the age of 11, and later studied anatomy in a New York morgue and worked in Andy Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory. (The exhibition at the MFA will include Wyeth’s portrait of Warhol.) After its run ends in December, the exhibit will travel to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Arkansas.

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