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Toast of the Town: Norman Rockwell and the Artists of New Rochelle


Norman Rockwell. J.C. Leyendecker. Frederic Remington. Each was a highly successful illustrator who, along with an impressive number of other celebrity artists, was a denizen of an elite artists' colony in New Rochelle, New York, during the early 20th century. In "Toast of the Town: Norman Rockwell and the Artists of New Rochelle," on view through October 27, 2002, at the Norman Rockwell Museum, the evocative works by the artists of New Rochelle capture the vibrancy and excitement of America in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. The exhibition presents early paintings produced by Norman Rockwell alongside the diverse artwork of dozens of his contemporaries who also called New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City, home. (left: C. Coles Phillips, "The Magic Hour," Advertisement for Oneida SilverPlate, 1924, Courtesy of The Kelly Collection of American Illustration)

Rockwell and his neighboring illustrators enjoyed what was then a lucrative profession, one that often brought instant national celebrity and recognition-much like that afforded today's biggest stars. "Magazines and newspapers were the main form of popular entertainment and the premier source of news and information," notes the exhibition's co-curator Stephanie Plunkett, who is the Museum's director of illustration art. "Before the rise of radio and the movies and the fall of the nation's economy, these illustrators served as visual storytellers for the world. Their artwork was highly regarded and in great demand."

A wide range of original art by more than 25 artists is represented in the exhibition-from magazine and book illustrations to book jacket covers and advertisements. Featured illustrators include Norman Rockwell, Harold Anderson, Franklin Booth, George Brehm, Worth Brehm, Clare Briggs, Nell Brinkley, Daniel Content, Dean Cornwell, John Philip Falter, Victor Clyde Forsythe, Walter Beach Humphrey, F.X. Leyendecker, J.C. Leyendecker, Tom Lovell, Orson Byron Lowell, Al Parker, Edward Penfield, C. Coles Phillips, Frederic Remington, Mead Schaeffer, Remington Schuyler, Donald Teague, George T. Tobin, Edmund F. Ward, and Revere Wistefuff.

"'Toast of the Town: Norman Rockwell and the Artists of New Rochelle' covers the first of three distinct time periods in Rockwell's career," states the Museum's Chief Curator Maureen Hart Hennessey, who is also co-curator of the exhibition. "Shortly after starting his professional career, he moved to New Rochelle, primarily because it was a congenial artists' community. Commuter rail lines allowed easy access to New York, the country's primary publishing center, and the pleasant suburban locale also offered a sophisticated social and cultural life." For Rockwell, the community of New Rochelle symbolized success as an illustrator. At the age of 19, Rockwell, already the art editor of Boys' Life, set up shop in New Rochelle in 1913. He would remain in the town (except for a brief stint in New York City) for the next 27 years, a period of his career that was very productive and rewarding. His evolution as an artist was clearly affected by his residencies; the works created during his years in Arlington, Vermont (1940-1953), and Stockbridge, Massachusetts (1953-1978)-as well as those of his contemporaries-will be examined in upcoming exhibitions at the Norman Rockwell Museum during the next two years. (left: Edward Penfield, "Woman With Hounds," 1906, Courtesy of The Kelly Collection of American Illustration)

This exploration of the age's artistic trendsetters is complemented by a companion presentation, "John Held, Jr. and the Jazz Age." Held's highly stylized images perfectly matched the aesthetics of the period, and his work was in great demand by the publishers of the day. As the Museum focuses its summer programming on this fascinating era in American illustration, visitors will be treated to a delightful array of themed events.

Upcoming exhibitions include "Norman Rockwell's Art for the Book: Willie Was Different" (September 21, 2002 through January 20, 2003), "Dancing by the Light of the Moon: The Art of Fred Marcellino" (November 9, 2002 through January 26, 2003) and "The Berenstain Bears Celebrate: The Art of Stan and Jan Berenstain" (February 8 through May 27, 2003).  The Norman Rockwell Museum is a participating member in The Vienna Project, a collaboration among 11 arts and cultural institutions in the Berkshires.


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