Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 33
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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Kennedys Still Aglow in Avedon’s Portraits as Morven’s Latest Exhibit Shines Bright

Dilshanie Perera

The talents of one of America’s leading photographers were used to maximum effect to capture one of America’s most charismatic first families in “The Kennedys —  Portrait of a Family,” which showcases Richard Avedon’s handiwork and is now on view at Morven until October 31.

The traveling exhibition is produced by the Smithsonian and the National Museum of American History and comes from a series of photos of the Kennedys that Avedon shot for Harper’s Bazaar and Look Magazine in 1961, which he later donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Morven Curator Elizabeth Allan said that the museum applied to host the Smithsonian’s exhibit since “we knew Kennedy had been to Morven once before, and we received an overwhelming response to the idea.”

On September 15, 1960, Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy stopped by Morven, which was then the governor’s mansion, to meet with Governor Robert Meyner (who served from 1954-1962). En route to Trenton for a campaign event, Kennedy caused quite a stir in Princeton.

The one photograph on display that was not taken by Avedon is an image from Morven’s collection of Kennedy driving through Princeton surrounded by schoolchildren keen on catching a glimpse of the presidential hopeful. When Ms. Allan found the photo in the Morven archive, it was accompanied by very little information.

After some sleuthing, photo donor Julia Fulper Hardt, who was pictured alongside Kennedy in the photograph, revealed that the girls in Miss Fine’s Upper School were outside for gym class when they saw Kennedy’s motorcade coming through town and decided to run down to the road to greet him. The picture itself was taken by a Princeton University senior for the Daily Princetonian.

Additionally, a few of Morven’s current employees remember when Kennedy passed through town, Ms. Allan reported.

“As soon as you bring up the Kennedys, someone brings up a memory,” Ms. Allan said. To that end, the exhibition offers the patrons a chance to share their responses to the question, “What do you remember about the Kennedy years?”

The answers range in levity and brevity from the short and sweet to the weighty and poignant. One notecard reads, “The day he was shot changed my life.”

In another, the author writes, “I remember as a young girl getting a toy periscope for Christmas that I just loved. I brought it with me when my family went to see JFK’s plane land at an airport on Long Island and carefully focused it to get the perfect view of JFK!”

Ms. Allan characterized the show as one that would draw people who are interested in history, photography, and the Kennedys themselves. “I’ve been looking at these images for a long time now, preparing for the exhibition, and I had forgotten how moving they are,” she said, adding that some visitors have told her that a box of tissues should accompany the portraits.

“When looking at the pictures of Caroline and JFK together, you see that he’s not just the president, he’s her father,” Ms. Allan remarked.

Visit or call (609) 924-8144 for more information.

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