Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, a true American queen, spent many summers in the Hamptons as a child and throughout her young adult life. For the first time ever, a rare collection of images of Onassis will be unveiled at Clinton Academy Museum in East Hampton. The photographs chronicle the tender years of young Jackie by famed society photographer Bert Morgan. The collection Young Jackie on the South Fork is presented by East Hampton Historical Society and will debut during an Opening Reception on Friday, August 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. The show will run through Sunday, October 8.
The photographs are described as “intimate, mesmerizing, and at times haunting.” They capture a romantically bygone era and the formative years of America’s former First Lady. Morgan recognized that Jackie Bouvier was a star even at age five. Jackie’s socialite mother, Janet Lee Bouvier, encouraged Bert to seek out young Jackie when she participated in East End events such as horse shows, dog shows, and fashion benefits. He photographed her as she grew from a child into a budding young adult. This selection of photographs is so striking because viewers witness the trust growing between Jackie and Morgan. From the very first photograph of Jackie and her dog, it’s apparent that she would grow into a successful female leader.
“It is a privilege to get to work with such an important icon in our society, for women, for leaders – in society, politics, fashion, and American culture,” reflected Jill Malusky, Executive Director of the East Hampton Historical Society. “It was wonderful to see her as a child, to recognize this look in her eyes, the way she carried herself, not knowing what she would grow up to be, and seeing how it evolved.”
Morgan was the dean of high society photographers who covered the “Social Set” from the 1930s to the 1980s as they gathered in New York, Palm Beach, East Hampton, Southampton, Newport, Saratoga, and points in between. It is said that he never agreed to publish an unflattering photograph which is why so many rich and famous allowed him in their often private lives, social functions, clubs, and homes. Morgan left behind an extensive collection of over 500,000 negatives taken throughout his career by himself and his son, Richard Morgan. The collection was purchased from Morgan’s estate in 2009 by Shelter Island-based film and photo archivist Patrick Montgomery. Working through Getty Images, Montgomery made them available in magazines, books, and films. He has also combed through the archive, identified images which would be better served in their home communities, and donated these negatives to local historical societies and museums, including the East Hampton Historical Society.
This is where the inspiration for Young Jackie on the South Fork was created. Montgomery, Richard Barons (former Executive Director, now Senior Curator), and East Hampton Historical Society trustee, Frank Newbold, developed the concept and enlisted recently appointed Executive Director Jill Malusky to curate.
“Bert Morgan has many photographs of Jackie available, and some images had several options. We were able to really decide which look, which expression, which movement was telling a story we wanted to share,” said Malusky. “In learning more about ‘young’ Jackie, it was said by teachers that she was spirited and mischievous, and you can see that look captured in a few images. I’d like to think that this roguish spirit has a strength to it, and over time, she cultivated it into the grace and reserve that we see in her later images – that sort of self-preservation takes real power.”
There is no admission fee to Clinton Academy Museum, but donations are appreciated.
Clinton Academy Museum is located at 151 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call 631-324-6850 or visit www.easthamptonhistory.org.