Exhibit Information

Brooklyn Museum

Address 200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Click here for quick directions
Phone Number 718-638-5000

Website http://www.brooklynmuseum.org

NORMAN ROCKWELL: Behind the Camera

Opening: 19 November 2010 - Closing: 10 April 2011

NORMAN ROCKWELL: Behind the Camera



When Spring comes along, you might want to drive up to the newly-leafing Berkshires, stopping along the way in picturesque Stockbridge. While there, you should visit the Sculpture-Studio of Daniel Chester French, who created that immense Seated-Lincoln for the Nation’s-Capital.


More popular, however, is the Stockbridge-Studio of Norman Rockwell, one of the most popular Magazine-Illustrators of the 20th Century. His Iconic-Images of Ordinary-Americans at Work & Play were the most distinguishing-feature of the Saturday-Evening-Post for many years.


Ordinary-Americans collected Norman Rockwell Post-Covers the way Elitist-New-Yorkers collected the covers of The New Yorker.


The difference in Taste & Attitude that motivated the two groups of Collectors, however, was that Manhattanites appreciated the Subtle-Social-Satires of the New-Yorker-Covers.


Whereas, out in the Heartland, Rockwell’s weekly Sentimental-Celebrations of the Very American-ness of Our-Daily-Lives spoke to a much wider & admiring Public!


Over time, Rockwell’s obvious talent as a technically-accomplished-painter—along with his predictably sentimental-approach to many Aspects of American Life—encouraged Art-Experts to dismiss his work as Illustrations, not as Art, with a Capital-A.


Nonetheless, Rockwell was proud of that designation, as he had been preceded by Howard Pyle & NC Wyeth, also beloved Illustrators, who came to be recognized as important Artists as well


What many did not—even today, do not—know about were the Minute-Preparations that Rockwell made before he completed a definitive Post-Cover. He was, in effect, a Stage-Director, a Prop-Manager, & a Set-Designer for all of his Signature-Paintings.


Here’s the Word, from the Brooklyn Museum’s Press-Release:


To create many of his Iconic, Quintessentially-American paintings—most of which served as magazine-covers—Norman Rockwell worked from carefully-staged Study-Photographs.


These are now on-view for the first time at the Brooklyn Museum, alongside his actual Paintings, Drawings, & related Tear-Sheets. This fascinating show was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, following a two-year project that preserved & digitized almost 20,000 negatives.


Beginning in the late 1930s, Norman Rockwell [1894–1978] adopted Photography as a tool to bring his illustration-ideas to life in studio-sessions. Working as a director, he carefully staged his photographs, selecting props, locations, & models, orchestrating every detail.


He began by collecting authentic Props & Costumes. What he did not have readily available, he purchased, borrowed, or rented—from a Dime-Store-Hairbrush or Coffee-Cup to a roomful of chairs & tables from a New York City Automat.


He created numerous photographs for each new subject, sometimes capturing complete compositions or combining separate pictures of individual elements. Over the forty years that he used photographs as his painting-guide, he worked with many skilled photographers, particularly Gene Pelham, Bill Scovill, & Louis Lamone.


Early in his career, Norman Rockwell used Professional-Models, but he eventually found that this method inhibited his Evolving-Naturalistic-Style.


When he turned to Photography, he preferred using friends and neighbors to create his many detailed study-photographs, which he found liberating.


Working from black-&-white study-photographs also allowed Rockwell more freedom in developing his final work: "If a model has worn a red sweater, I have painted it red—I couldn’t possibly make it green.… But when working with photographs, I seem able to recompose in many ways: as to Form, Tone, & Color.”


Included in the exhibition are more than 100 framed Digital-Prints, along with paintings, drawings, magazine tear-sheets, photographic-equipment, & Archival-Letters, as well as an Introductory-Film.


Among the paintings on-view is the Brooklyn Museum’s own Rockwell painting: The Tattoo Artist.


This is one of many that Rockwell created during World War II. It shows a young Sailor stoically having his arm tattooed, adding a new girl’s name below many others, already crossed-out by the Tattooer’s Needle.


This exemplifies the Humor & Sentimentality that made Rockwell’s Post-Covers the Objects of Scorn of many professional Art-Critics & Art-Professors…


Among the magazine-covers included in the exhibition are several from The Saturday Evening Post, for which Rockwell worked for nearly fifty years before turning his attentions to more socially-relevant subjects for Look Magazine, with which he had a decade-long relationship.

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