The Mystic Museum of Art will present Saturday Evening Post Covers: Tell Me a Story by Norman Rockwell, hosted by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. The culmination of the MMoA Year of Narrative Art, the exhibition will run from June 18 to September 18.
The exhibition will present the 323 legendary covers created for The Saturday Evening Post by the famous American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894-1978). In doing so, the exhibit brings together two giants of American cultural history: The Saturday Evening Post, which has chronicled “American history in the making” for nearly 200 years, and Norman Rockwell, who captivated American audiences with the visual appeal, historical detail and narrative brilliance in his art for over four decades. Taken together, Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers in detail the lives of Americans and the history they have shared for 47 years.
Under the theme “Tell Me a Story”, the MMoA will invite the public, through tours, talks and gallery activities, to tell their own stories, ask which stories are missing and why. The editorial constraints and biases under which he worked sharpened Rockwell’s commitment to social commentary. In later work for other publishers, he developed the themes of racial inequality and discrimination.
“The MMoA already had a large collection of American art,” commented MMoA Executive Director Susan Fisher. “Now, the opportunity to work with a world-class institution like the Norman Rockwell Museum puts exceptional traveling exhibitions within our reach, and within the reach of those we serve.”
Born in New York on February 3, 1894, Norman Percival Rockwell is considered by many to be one of America’s greatest artists. From the start, he wanted to be an illustrator. He left public school at age 14 to attend Chase Art School. He then studied at the prestigious National Academy of Design and then at the more progressive Art Students League. At the League, he worked with such famous artists as George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty.
It was a good time for a budding illustrator. The “Golden Age of Illustration” was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration, spanning the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution . Technical advances in papermaking and art reproduction produced affordable fine art images for America’s growing middle class, while artists found employment and inspiration in art. narrative graphic, including Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, JC Leyendecker, NC Wyeth and Frederick Remington. .
Amid this booming art market, Rockwell won his first major commission when he was just 18: an illustration for Carl H. Claudy’s Tell Me Why: Stories about Mother Nature. This was the start of a craft he devotedly honed for the next 65 years.
Young Rockwell realized another dream when his art was published by the Boy Scouts of America’s Boys’ Life, and again when he became the publication’s art editor in 1913. In 1916, with the help of cartoonist Clyde Forsythe (with whom he shared a studio) Rockwell successfully submitted his first cover, Mother’s Day Off, for The Saturday Evening Post. He was only 22 years old.
It was a decisive success. From the early years of the century through the 1960s, The Saturday Evening Post was one of America’s most widely circulated and influential magazines. His rich mix of fiction, non-fiction, cartoons and feature films has reached millions of homes every week – easily the largest and most versatile setting possible for his brilliantly storytelling artistry. He took the opportunity seriously. Throughout his long career, Rockwell rarely took vacations at his studio. He worked meticulously from props and models, taking up to six months to create a single cover painting.
Rockwell’s serious and unassuming attitude to his work also characterizes his subject matter. “I showed the America I knew and watched to others who might not have noticed,” he said. He enjoyed watching the people around him: middle-class children, families, and adults, as they played, worked, visited a doctor, or fixed a flat tire. He had an eye for everyday decor. By turns humorous and deeply moving, Rockwell’s subjects found enthusiastic audiences. According to The Saturday Evening Post, his work helped boost his subscription base to 6,900,000 nationwide in 1960.
As the “Golden Age of Illustration” waned in the 1930s and 1940s, Rockwell’s popularity grew. His work appeared on both the covers and stories of the Saturday Evening Post in the 1960s. His last cover for the Post, “Portrait of John F. Kennedy” was published on December 14, 1963, a week after the assassination of Kennedy.
To develop such a wide range of images and subject matter, MMoA will present a series of talks and events focusing on specific aspects of his art. All events will be posted on the Museum’s website at www.MysticMuseumofArt.org and announced in eblasts. For more information on tours or activities for groups, please call MMoA at 860.536.7601.