American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell

Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries

As the United States' premier illustrator for six decades, Norman Rockwell created images that both reflected and shaped American popular culture in the twentieth century. Featuring rarely circulated original masterpieces from the Norman Rockwell Museum, American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell traces the range of Rockwell's art, from appealing scenes of everyday life to powerful images documenting the American Civil Rights Movement. Included in the presentation are original oil paintings, which were reproduced as magazine covers for the Saturday Evening Post, as well as tear sheets for more than 320 covers Rockwell created for the Post during his forty-seven year career with the magazine. Original war bond posters from 1943 featuring Rockwell's images of the "Four Freedoms" are also included. Photographs of Rockwell and a selection of his personal correspondence provide additional insight into the life of this iconic American artist. The Akron Art Museum is the premiering institution for this exhibition's national tour. Norman Rockwell created some 4,000 works during his lifetime. From touching scenes of everyday life—children at play, families gathered for holiday scenes—to powerful images documenting the American Civil Rights movement and reflections on a world at war, Rockwell captured the American experience through his images, many of them now icons of American culture. “The goal of our expansion was to broaden and enrich our programming and to be able to offer art experiences that were beyond the capacity of our old facility,” said Mitchell Kahan, director and chief executive officer of the Akron Art Museum. “By increasing exhibition spaces and creating flexible new galleries, we can bring important large-scale traveling exhibitions—such as American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell—to our city and our state. We look forward to sharing with the public this wonderful exhibition of works by one of the nation’s most beloved artists and to welcoming visitors to all of the great new programs in the new Akron Art Museum.” Norman Rockwell’s artwork documented American life through nearly six decades, capturing the imagination of millions through meticulously crafted scenes ranging from depictions of childhood innocence and nostalgic images of the American family, to commanding images reflecting the tensions of foreign conflicts and portrayals of pressing social and political issues closer to home. Rockwell is perhaps best known for the images he created for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, a prominent weekly news and culture magazine published from 1821 to 1969. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell includes 41 original oil paintings, as well as tear sheets of more than 320 covers the prolific artist created during his long career with the magazine. Among the Post covers are some of Rockwell’s most recognizable images, such as the May 29, 1943 cover depicting his version of “Rosie” the Riveter, a tribute to the six million women who worked in manufacturing plants during the war and has since become an inspiration to generations of women. Another frequently reproduced image is Breaking Home Ties (September 25, 1954), the touching image of a young man preparing to depart for college, accompanied by his father, who nervously anticipates his son’s departure from home. In 1963, following his time with The Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell began to work for Look magazine where he developed compositions that addressed the challenges of the post-war era—poverty, political unrest and racial segregation in the South. His poignant painting The Problem We All Live With, which addresses the desegregation of America’s public schools, is a centerpiece of the exhibition at the Akron Art Museum. The famous painting depicts the brave journey of a 6-year-old African American schoolgirl into an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960. Rockwell’s 1943 war bond posters illustrating President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms”—Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech and Freedom to Worship—are also included in the exhibition. “We are very excited to present the U.S. premiere of American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell,” said Dr. Barbara Tannenbaum, director of Curatorial Affairs. “Rockwell was able to express what it means to be American with a directness and vitality that no other artist in our history has ever matched. This exhibition provides an unusual opportunity to see a number of Rockwell’s greatest and most moving works, from the witty Art Critic and The Discovery (that Santa Claus is…well, you know who) to his masterful statement about the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in America, The Problem We All Live WithAmerican Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell is one of the first in the museum’s dynamic new program of special exhibitions and public activities that will feature something for art lovers of every age and type.” Photographs of Rockwell and a selection of his personal correspondence provide additional insight into the artist’s life and work, as do some of his self-referential works that address the demanding process of completing images for publications, such as Artist Facing a Blank Canvas (Deadline) and Triple Self-Portrait, the original canvases of which are on view in American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. Exhibition Funding and Tour Schedule American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. American Chronicles has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, American Masterpieces Program. Its presentation in Akron is made possible by a Premier Sponsorship gift from The Burton D. Morgan Foundation. Publication support has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Media sponsorship has been provided by the Curtis Publishing Company and by the Norman Rockwell Estate Licensing Company. Conservation support has been provided by the Stockman Family Foundation. Following its presentation in Akron, the exhibition will travel to the Orlando Museum of Art, Florida (March 1, 2008 through May 26, 2008); the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia (November 8, 2008 through February 1, 2009); and the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (November 14, 2009 through February 7, 2010). Additional venues will be announced shortly. Norman Rockwell Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell studied art at the New York School of Art, the National Academy of Design in New York and the Art Students League, where an education in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. Early success led to Rockwell’s position as art director of Boys’ Life magazine and launched a six decade long career as an illustrator for magazines. In 1916, Rockwell painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post and over the next 47 years more than 320 of his compositions graced the publication’s cover. In 1963 Rockwell left the publication to create covers for Look magazine. During his 10-year association with Look, Rockwell’s works addressed some of his deepest social and political concerns and interests including civil rights, the nation’s war on poverty and the exploration of space. In 1973, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his life’s work, placing his paintings in the custodianship of the Old Corner House Stockbridge Historical Society, which would later become the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. In 1977, the year before his death, Rockwell received the Presidential Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Image Credit: Norman Rockwell, Triple Self-Portrait, Oil on canvas. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, February 13, 1960. ©1960 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. From the permanent collection of The Norman Rockwell Museum.