Ever since Norman Rockwell’s portrayals of American life graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post, the beloved illustrator has been among the most recognized artists reflecting American art and culture. An astute visual storyteller and masterful painter, he had a distinct and personal message to share. That message conveyed the spirit of a nation whether recalling childhood pranks, young love, family rituals or facing hardships.
Many of his works revealed his own life, his family, friends and neighbors and offered a behind-the-scenes look at the autobiographical aspects of his art. His son once remarked that his family felt as if they were “living out Saturday Evening Post covers.”
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, an extensive retrospective of his work will be on view from June 8 through October 27 along with accompanying year-long programs, events and additional exhibits which all make for a special celebration of the artist and American illustration as a whole.
One exhibition called “Norman Rockwell: Private Moments for the Masses” features such works as “The Stay at Homes (Outward Bound),” created for a 1927 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, the personal 1948 “Christmas Homecoming” and the 1960 “Triple Self-Portrait,” a hallmark of the exhibition in which Rockwell humorously identified his own identity in Freudian times. The exhibition also includes rarely seen early works, candid photographs, personal correspondence and diaries.
And that’s just for starters. In addition to “Private Moments for the Masses,” two other special exhibitions explore Rockwell’s art, life and legacy; remember 1969 — the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon — and reveal photographs, new media and artifacts that evoke Stockbridge’s Old Corner House, where the museum was first established. Taken together, the varied anniversary events constitute a remarkable remembrance.
The exhibition “Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated” captures the moment a human being first stepped on the moon. It was also the year when 400,000 concertgoers convened on a farm in upstate New York for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. And it was the year the Rockwell Museum was founded. Culled from the museum’s collection as well as private and public collections, the exhibition illuminates how Rockwell and other illustrators portrayed their times while reflecting on popular culture during a tumultuous time. Works include Rockwell’s depiction of the first moonwalk, key events in the civil rights movement, presidential portraits, images of the war on poverty and the war in Vietnam. Rockwell’s first rock album cover is also on display.