Friday, January 04, 2008

Last Chance to See American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell

Last Chance to See American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell

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Art Critic, Norman Rockwell. 1955. Oil on canvas, 39 ½” x 36 ¼”. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, April 16, 1955. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum. ©1955 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

AKRON, OHIO.- A major traveling exhibition of works by iconic American artist Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) is currently on view at the Akron Art Museum through February 3, 2008. Following its premiere in Akron , the exhibition will tour nationally. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell celebrates the full range of Rockwell’s artwork, including rarely circulated works from the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts . Included in the presentation are all of the hundreds of covers Rockwell created for the Saturday Evening Post over nearly five decades, original oil paintings of some of his most famous illustrations, drawings, war bond posters and other works. In addition to the artworks on view, personal correspondence and archival photographs offer insight into one of the country’s most beloved illustrators. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell opens November 10, 2007, in the Akron Art Museum’s new John S. and James L. Knight Building, designed by Austrian architecture firm COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. The exhibition, which is the first traveling exhibition in the museum’s new galleries, will be on view through February 3, 2008. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell is organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts .

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 Saturday Evening Post, a prominent weekly news and culture magazine published from 1821 to 1969. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell includes 29 original oil paintings created for the Post, 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 With. American 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.

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