Historical Background of Andy Warhol’s Flash-November 22,1963 Series, 1968
This series of 11 screenprints was created in 1968, depicting the media’s portrayal of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22nd, 1963. The title for the series derives from the phrase “news flash”. The screenprints are based on campaign posters, mass media photos, and advertisements. The cover of the portfolio reproduces the front page of the New York World Telegram on that day. Each of the prints are accompanied by Teletype reports selected by Phillip Greer. The teletype reports offer media narrative to the images, constructing our understanding of the the assassination. In this way, Warhol emphasizes how public opinion is more so shaped by mass media than individual understanding. Warhol was obsessed with Kennedy’s assassination; he said “when President Kennedy was shot that fall, I heard the news over the radio while I was alone painting in my studio. I don’t think I missed a stroke. I wanted to know what was going on out there, but that was the extent of my reaction I’d been thrilled about having Kennedy as president; he was handsome, young, smart-but it didn’t bother me that much that he was dead. What bothered me was the way television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad. It seemed like no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from the thing.”
The Screenprints and Their Media Imagery
This print is a black and white image of John F. Kennedy’s charismatic smile. This captures the essence of the president and surrounds the viewer in the ‘Kennedy Effect’. The somber colors hint at the tragedy that ensued.
This image focuses on the Presidential Seal, a symbol of democracy and leadership The widely recognized is subdued in gray and slightly blurred under the varying shades. The faded colors hint at the lackluster political atmosphere after Kennedy’s passing.
This screenprint features the image of Jacqueline Kennedy smiling just moments before her husband was shot. Warhol would continue to display similar images of the First Lady in his Disasters series.
Flash FS II. 35 features President Kennedy’s beaming face colored in deep, ominous red. This portrait is similar to the previous image of Jacqueline Kennedy.
Lee Harvey Oswald was the American sniper who assassinated President Kennedy. Here, we see a close-up image of his face colored in bright pink.
This screenprint in Warhol’s Flash Series, features the pistol Oswald used in the assassination. This harrowing intentionally provokes fear and sensationalizes violence through the media.
FS II 38 is created largely in tones of gray and white. President Kennedy’s portrait appears both prominent and faded in this image. Warhol repeats the same portrait in the background, strengthening its meaning.
This particular print features the image of the building from which President Kennedy was shot. The arrow pointing ominously to the window Lee Harvey Oswald shot from. Unlike the other screenprints in the series, this print features only a single image.
Warhol took a dramatic approach to this image by interlacing Kennedy’s face against the top portion of Oswald’s profile. In the foreground is a segmented portion of the United States Seal.
Warhol Flash 41 shows President Kennedy’s face gently sketched in purple against a black background.
This image was taken from Kennedy’s presidential campaign. The print was deliberately colored red and blue to bring up its patriotic theme.