When John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected President in 1960, he was the youngest President in the history of the United States. Deciding to bring a new style, a new look and a new vitality to the White House, he had a major asset: his wife. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was only thirty-one, but she was to profoundly influence American taste. Behind the shy and smiling First Lady was hidden and determined woman, with a strong sense of art and history.
Jacqueline Kennedy knew Washington DC very well. By 1960, she had already lived there for eighteen years. Her family had a house in Merrywood, Virginia, and she had lived in Washington as a photographer and a columnist – the “Inquiring Camera Girl” – for the Washington Times-Herald. She met John F. Kennedy in this professional context. She wanted to transform Washington DC into a model for other American cities, a cultural as well as political capital, like Paris or London. She felt that arts sounded like a “dead European language” for the American people, whereas she saw Europe as the “fountainhead of culture and style” .
She was willing to make the White House become the first house of the United States . The restoration of the Executive Mansion was her main achievement. She also wanted to introduce style and history in everyday American life by carefully choosing her wardrobe and by promoting art and entertainment in the Nation's Capital.
[...] President Kennedy said think this is the most extraordinary collection of talents that has never been gathered in the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone”. Eleven days later, André Malraux, French Minister of Culture, was enthusiastically received: Jackie Kennedy was fascinated by this writer and politician. During the visit, Malraux promised to loan Mona Lisa to the National Gallery as a personal favor to her. La Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci was exhibited during four weeks at the beginning of 1963. [...]
[...] A Woman Named Jackie: An Intimate Biography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. New York: Carol Pub. Group KEOGH, Pamela Clarke. Jackie Style. New York: HarperCollins LEAMER, Laurence. The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family. 1st ed. New York: Villard Books MILLS, Jean. Moments with Jackie. New York: Metro Books PERRY, Barbara A . Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas SMITH, Sally Bedell. Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House. [...]
[...] The Gardens Jacqueline Kennedy had noticed the importance of walking in the gardens between serious meetings. She ensured that the White House South Lawn was revitalized. Rachel Lambert Mellon redesigned the East Garden and completed the new Rose Garden outside the West Wing. The East Garden, completed during the Johnson presidency, was named after Mrs. Kennedy. Rachel Mellon also changed the interior flowers of the White House, since the first lady was willing to redesign the way flowers were arranged in all the State Rooms. [...]
[...] It provoked an interior- designer war behind the scenes. Jacqueline Kennedy moved gradually from the influence of Sister Parish to the influence of Stéphane Boudin, but she almost hid the latter as he did not please du Pont. According to J.B. West, the White House chief usher, the two men disagreed because Mr. du Pont favoured authenticity while Mr. Boudin “cared only about pleasing the eyes”. Acquiring Works of Art Then, Mrs Kennedy focused on the need for a permanent collection of paintings at the White House. [...]
[...] In any case, they agreed on this issue: Jacqueline did not want her husband to be buried in Massachusetts; he had to be buried in front of the Lincoln Memorial. She had once told him just belong to the country”. Moreover, President Kennedy enjoyed this place he had visited eleven days before his death for Veteran's Day. She wanted a hero's funeral, and it was an indirect way of building her own legacy. She knew that each of her gestures during this historic day would be remembered. [...]
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