"From Winterthur To The White House"

Exhibition Explores Jacqueline Kennedy And
Henry Francis du Pont’s Partnership In The Historic Restoration Of “The People’s House”

January 14, 2022

In 1961, the youngest first lady in American history appointed a reserved octogenarian collector from Delaware to lead her project to restore the White House interiors. The exhibition “Jacqueline Kennedy and Henry Francis du Pont: From Winterthur to the White House” will tell the story of this historic partnership for the first time at Winterthur, the inspiration for Mrs. Kennedy’s project. The exhibition will run May 7 to Jan. 8, 2023.
When Mrs. Kennedy moved into the most famous house in America, she described its drab interior as a combination of “dentist office and bomb shelter.” Her vision, aided by her sense of chic, was to restore a sense of history through beautiful design. Henry Francis du Pont’s expertise in design and decorative arts lent credibility to the project. Together, they transformed the White House from a mere public residence into a home of grandeur and historic significance suitable for a president. By establishing a permanent collection of furniture and art, they also created a museum for all Americans.
Their restoration awakened an interest in historic preservation and interior design that is still felt today. The project resulted in a televised tour of the White House that became the most watched program in American history. “The television tour fascinated generations of Americans and sealed Jacqueline Kennedy in our national imagination as the first lady who brought history and beauty to the White House,” according to guest curator Elaine Rice Bachmann.
Through artifacts, archives, and images, the exhibition invites visitors to experience the behind-the-scenes collaboration between the two during this captivating period in American history. Visitors will learn about the relationship between Mrs. Kennedy and Mr. du Pont, her visit to Winterthur in May 1961, Winterthur’s role in inspiring the design of the White House’s most iconic rooms, the historical significance of the restoration, and the important role Winterthur has played at the White House ever since.
“H. F. du Pont’s role in the Kennedy restoration of the White House positions Winterthur and its influence on American preservation and interiors at the center of this story,” said Alexandra Deutsch, the John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections at Winterthur. “Mrs. Kennedy’s iconic visit to Winterthur launched her on a path of creating the White House we know today. The interiors of the museum helped shape that lasting vision, which she enacted in just three short years.”
To learn more, visit www.winterthur.org.

 

More Articles