As Norman Rockwell sought to 'tell a whole story with a single image,' this immense collection of deeply sentimental images -- from cheerful families around the dinner table to weary soldiers returning from war.
Birmingham, AL (PRWEB) August 15, 2012
After shattering attendance records with its debut in England, Norman Rockwell’s America, a comprehensive exhibition of the legendary illustrator’s 60-year career, opens at the Birmingham Museum of Art on September 16.
Featuring more than 52 original paintings and all 323 vintage Saturday Evening Post covers, the exhibition visually chronicles the evolving landscape of American culture and society from 1916-1969 and is one of the largest Rockwell exhibitions to ever travel. Rockwell’s six-decade career depicts one of the most eventful periods in American history, spanning four wars, the Great Depression, the space race, and the Civil Rights Movement. Organized by the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island, the exhibition premiered to critical and popular acclaim at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery in December 2010.
Norman Rockwell’s career as an illustrator began in 1912, at the age of 18, when he published his first works. That same year, he was hired as a staff artist for Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America. He soon became the magazine’s art editor, a position he held for three years. While Rockwell’s relationship with the Boy Scouts continued long after his departure, it was his work with the Saturday Evening Post that made him a household name. With his first Post cover published in 1916, Rockwell often used his friends, family members and even himself as models for his work. He usually worked from reference photographs staged in his studio, and created scenes depicting everyday American life based on his own experience.
“As Norman Rockwell sought to “tell a whole story with a single image,” this immense collection of deeply sentimental images -- from cheerful families around the dinner table to weary soldiers returning from war—tells a heartfelt narrative of American optimism, trust, and enshrined values,” says Birmingham Museum of Art R. Hugh Daniel Director Gail Andrews. “We are proudly presenting this exhibition during a most poignant time, not only over the holiday season but amidst a presidential election. We hope this exhibition will inspire feelings of unity and pride, reminding us all what is truly enviable about being American.”
Although often remembered for his nostalgic approach to American daily life, Rockwell also seriously addressed major social issues of the time in some of his later work. A study of the The Problem We All Live With, showcases the courage of a young black girl led by US Marshals on her walk to school on the first day of desegregation. The original painting recently hung in the West Wing of the White House at the personal request of President Obama. Rockwell’s exploration of such controversial topics was a radical departure from the generally positive and frequently humorous scenes he was known for in his Saturday Evening Post days.
As a painter, Rockwell mastered a wide variety of techniques, and showed strong interest in art history, sometimes emulating the work of the Old Masters, and even showing an interest in Modern artists such as Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock.
“People are accustomed to hearing Rockwell described as an “illustrator," because he created works of art for magazines, books and advertisements. Indeed, he was perhaps the greatest illustrator in history, but he wasn’t any less an artist. Behind each of his illustrations is a beautifully rendered oil painting. Rockwell was a highly skilled and extremely versatile painter,” says Graham C. Boettcher, the William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Visitors to the exhibition may well come away with the sense that he was among the most talented American painters of the 20th century.”
To complement the show, the Birmingham Museum of Art has organized a supplemental exhibition, which focuses on Norman Rockwell’s work for The Coca-Cola Company, as well as an exhibition of illustrations from the BMA’s permanent collection, including works by Frederic Remington, N.C. Wyeth, and Maxfield Parrish.
Admission to the exhibition is free for museum members, $15 for adults and $8 for students and children over six.
The Birmingham Museum of Art has created a full slate of programs and events throughout the run of the exhibition. Visit artsbma.org for a complete schedule.
Members of the media are invited to preview Norman Rockwell’s America on Thursday, September 13, between the hours of 10am and 1pm. Special remarks will be made at 11am by director Gail Andrews and curator of American art Graham Boettcher, PhD. An opportunity for interviews and a private tour will follow.
Rockwell Premiere Party
The Birmingham Museum of Art celebrates the arrival of Norman Rockwell’s America with a grand exhibition premiere party on September 14. Guests are invited to enjoy a 6pm lecture by Jennifer A. Greenhill, Assistant Professor of Art History, American Art, at the University of Illinois. Dr. Greenhill will explore a pivotal moment in Norman Rockwell’s career – the early 1940s – when his imagery became associated, more than ever before, with cherished American values. The lecture will be followed by an all-American celebration with food, drinks, music, and a sneak peek of the exhibition. The event is free for members and $20 for non-members.
First Thursdays: After Hours at the BMA
An astronaut, a congresswoman, a filmmaker, and a recent college graduate all serve as special guest speakers on the Museum’s original audio tour for Norman Rockwell’s America. These various perspectives address Rockwell’s iconic images from unique points of view, helping visitors to consider not only the works’ historical contexts but also how they relate to today’s world. The audio tour is free and can be accessed from any cellular phone, smartphone, or internet-enabled device.
One-hour group tours are scheduled Tuesday-Friday at 9am and 10am; other times may be arranged by appointment. The Museum will offer the option of two tours for groups of ten or more throughout the run of the exhibition.
Norman Rockwell’s America: Get the Picture looks at how the artist used line, shape, color, form and other techniques to build his compositions into American icons. Norman Rockwell’s America: Then and Now explores how artworks in the exhibition relate to contemporary world events. Contact Nicholas McLaughlin at 205.328.7628 to book a tour on behalf of a school or group.
Norman Rockwell’s America was organized by the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. Local presentation is made possible by Regions Bank. Additional support provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Vulcan Materials Company Foundation, the City of Birmingham, the Members and Corporate Partners of the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Tourism Board, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and The Friends of Rockwell.
About the Birmingham Museum of Art: Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art has one of the finest collections in the Southeast. More than 24,000 objects displayed and housed within the Museum represent a rich panorama of cultures, including Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American. Highlights include the Museum’s collection of Asian art, Vietnamese ceramics, the Kress collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the late 13th century to the 1750s, and the Museum’s world-renowned collection of Wedgwood, the largest outside of England.