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Aug 29, 2017 11:46 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

New Exhibit Provides Rare Glimpse Of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis As A Child Growing Up In East Hampton

East Hampton Historical Society Executive Director Jill Makulsky at the Clinton Academy, which is currently hosting the exhibit
Aug 29, 2017 1:38 PM

Before she was Jackie Kennedy, the most iconic first lady in American history, Jacqueline Bouvier was simply a young girl who loved horses.

Born in Southampton in July 1929, Jackie Bouvier spent her summers in East Hampton, at her family’s 14-acre estate, Lasata, on Further Lane, and she, her parents—Janet Lee and John Bouvier—and younger sister, Lee, were fixtures in the high society scene. Jackie, in particular, was a favorite subject of famed society photographer Bert Morgan, who documented her life extensively as she competed in local horse shows, and attended dog shows and other social events.

A rare collection of Mr. Morgan’s photos of Jackie is now on display at the Clinton Academy on 151 Main Street in East Hampton. The exhibit, titled “Young Jackie on the South Fork,” is hosted by the East Hampton Historical Society and will be on display through October 8. It is open to the public, free of charge, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Looking at the photos, it is easy to see why Mr. Morgan was so taken with Jackie. From a young age, she did not appear to be burdened with the traces of self-doubt, insecurity or immaturity that most children possess, to some degree, during their formative years. Rather, what she exudes in the photos, by turns, is poise and playfulness, an air of dignified yet unflappable confidence, and at times hints of a mischievousness and strong-willed personality.

The collection made its way to the East Hampton Historical Society thanks to Patrick Montgomery, a film and photo archivist based on Shelter Island. In 2009, Mr. Montgomery purchased half a million negatives from Mr. Morgan’s son, Richard Morgan, at auction. Included in that cache is Mr. Morgan’s work—and some of his son—spanning six decades.

Bert Morgan was the most well-known and respected society photographer of the time, earning the trust of the social set because he never published an unflattering photo. He was a fixture in the Hamptons, New York City, Palm Beach and other haunts of the rich and famous, and his work frequently appeared in prestigious publications such as Town and Country and Vanity Fair.

Mr. Montgomery used Getty Images to make the photos available for use in books, magazines and films, and also worked to donate some of the images to communities where they have local significance. He worked with the East Hampton Historical Society’s former executive director and now senior curator Richard Barons and historical society trustee Frank Newbold to create the concept for the exhibit, and enlisted newly appointed executive director Jill Makulsky to curate.

“The photos of Jackie are just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Montgomery said. “It’s a fascinating time capsule.”

Ms. Makulsky is hoping the name recognition of Jackie Kennedy will bring many and new visitors through the doors of the Clinton Academy.

“It’s somebody so iconic who grew up right here,” she said. “The family estate is just one and a half miles from here.”

Ms. Makulsky added that the exhibit—which encompasses only the first floor of the building—is small enough that visitors can take a more in-depth look at each photo on display. She also added equestrian-themed props to the exhibit, including a saddle and old show jacket as well as an older model camera similar to what Mr. Morgan would have been using at the time, on loan from Mr. Montgomery.

Many of the photos on display at the Clinton Academy feature Jackie with her ponies and horses over the years. In a photo from 1934, taken at the Southampton Hunt Club at a horse show when she is just 6 years old, Jackie is confidently leading her pony, Buddy, whose head is dipped low while following her in quiet obedience, as she holds her head high and stares unflinchingly into the camera. In a photo from three years later, she stands next to her mother and their horse, Stepaside, both in tweed coats and riding breeches, after winning the mother-daughter class at the Southampton Horse Show, the precursor to the Hampton Classic. She looks annoyed at having to pose for a photo, with a stern look on her face and one leg in front of the other as though she’s ready to walk away as soon as Mr. Morgan is finished.

Other photos include Jackie with several of her beloved dogs, and decked out in fashionable dresses, hats and shoes as she attends weddings and other social events with her family.

As Jackie grows older, the evolution of her relationship with Mr. Morgan and her tolerance for being photographed constantly is evident. She is less often perturbed and more frequently either playful with the camera, or indifferent.

Throughout the documentation as she grows from a small child to a young adult, a constant theme remains—her natural beauty, grace and magnetism.

“Clearly, she was photogenic,” Mr. Montgomery said. “She was somebody you would notice.”

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