Crystal Bridges Hosts Norman Rockwell Exhibition | Arts & Culture
50 Original Paintings and all 323 Saturday Evening Post Covers to be Included in Exhibition
One of the most popular American artists of the past century, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was a keen observer of human nature and a gifted storyteller. His paintings graced more than 300 covers of the popular Saturday Evening Post magazine and he is one of the best-loved illustrators in the history of American art. A traveling exhibition of Rockwell’s paintings will open at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on Saturday, March 9. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass., features 50 original Norman Rockwell paintings and a complete set of all 323 of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers. The exhibition will be on view through May 27.
American Chronicles includes several beloved and well-known images, including Triple Self-Portrait (1960), Girl at Mirror (1954), Going and Coming (1947), and Art Critic (1955). Also included are portraits of presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
“Rockwell’s images helped bring art to a broad segment of the public,” said Kevin Murphy, Crystal Bridges curator of American art. “His illustrations are so recognizable and popular that they helped make painted images part of mainstream visual culture.”
The exhibition also includes materials from the Norman Rockwell Museum’s archives demonstrating how Rockwell worked: proceeding from preliminary sketches, color studies, and detailed drawings to finished paintings. Also included are several posed and costumed photographs Rockwell staged as references for the figures in his paintings, often using himself and family members as models. In addition, the exhibition points out some of the artistic and cultural references that were often encoded in Rockwell’s work.
“Rockwell understood his place in popular culture of the time,” explained Murphy. “He understood that he had been adopted as an interpreter of the American dream, and he wanted his work to engage in the larger tradition of Western art, so he would put in references to great works of art through history. Sometimes they’re obvious, sometimes they’re not. It was a way for him to connect with great art of the past.”
Over time, Rockwell’s illustrations have come to symbolize an idealized American dream; representing the hopes and dreams of a bygone era. However, Rockwell was keenly aware of the social and political issues of his time. Murder in Mississippi, an illustration for Look magazine about the 1964 murder of three young civil rights workers, showcases his engagement with the civil rights struggle. The magazine eventually chose to use a preliminary sketch for publication, rather than the final painting. The original unpublished painting, as well as the oil sketch used for publication, are both included in this exhibition.
American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell presents an opportunity for families to talk, across generations, about the works and what they meant to readers of the Saturday Evening Post in the post-World War II era.
“Rockwell’s artwork is highly recognizable to a large audience—even if they have had limited opportunities to visit art museums,” said Crystal Bridges Director of Education and Exhibitions Niki Stewart. “By bringing American Chronicles to Crystal Bridges, we are creating an opportunity for people of many generations to see the original artworks, learn more about Rockwell’s process, and enjoy something that is both familiar and fascinating.”
A wide range of public programs are offered in conjunction with the exhibition, including lectures, a film, gallery talks, art workshops, and more. An audio guide is available for visitors at no charge on a first-come, first-served basis, and a printed family guide is available as well.
American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass. This exhibition is made possible with the generous support from National Endowment for the Arts, American Masterpieces Program; the Henry Luce Foundation; Curtis Publishing Company; Norman Rockwell Estate Licensing Company; and the Stockman Family Foundation.
This exhibition is sponsored at Crystal Bridges by the Bogle Family, the Paul and June Carter Family, ConAgra Foods, Hallmark Cards, Inc., and Stephens, Inc. Timed, reserved tickets will be required to view American Chronicles. Tickets are $12 for non-members and will go on sale beginning Feb. 4. Thanks to our sponsors, youth admission to American Chronicles is free. Crystal Bridges Members may reserve their complimentary tickets early, beginning Jan. 21.
More details on the exhibition, program offerings, and tickets can be found here: http://crystalbridges.org/Exhibitions/rockwell.