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Norman Rockwell in the 1940s: A View of the American Homefront and Charles Hargens: American Illustrator

October 19 - February 10, 2008

 

This fall and winter, the James A. Michener Art Museum exhibits the work of celebrated illustrators Norman Rockwell and Charles Hargens. Norman Rockwell in the 1940s: A View of the American Homefront and Charles Hargens: American Illustrator are on view at the Museum's New Hope, Union Square location October 19, 2007 through February 10, 2008.

"These two exhibits provide a unique opportunity for viewers to see the work of two well-known and accomplished American illustrators, both of whom had a hand in creating the popular mythology of our culture," said Brian H. Peterson, Senior Curator at the Michener Art Museum. "Illustrators have often helped us define how we see ourselves, and the work of these two artists also opens a door to America's past-the Old West and the Revolutionary period as interpreted by Hargens, World War II at home as seen by Rockwell."

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was one of America's most beloved and prolific illustrators. Over a 47-year period, he created 323 covers for the Saturday Evening Post, a publication which Rockwell considered "the greatest show window in America." He also painted countless illustrations for such popular magazines as Boys' Life, Look, Literary Digest and Life. Although he is most often remembered for his iconic images of American rural and family life, Rockwell was very active during the war years, creating 71 Saturday Evening Post covers that reflect the social and political climate of the times. His paintings of armchair generals, women war-workers, soldiers on mess-hall duty and families waiting back home all offered Americans a sense of hope, humor, patriotism and purpose.

Norman Rockwell in the 1940s: A View of the American Homefront, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, invites viewers to revisit a significant chapter in the history of our nation, as portrayed by one of the most notable American artists of all time. The exhibition features 40 original tearsheets from the Saturday Evening Post, including such recognizable covers as War News, Homecoming Soldier, Rosie the Riveter and Willie Gillis.

The exhibition also includes the famed Four Freedoms series. Inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress, Rockwell's Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear were first published by the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 along with essays commissioned from leading American writers and historians. Later, 1.2 million people viewed these paintings as they toured the United States raising $132 million for the war effort though the sale of war bonds. According to The New Yorker in 1945, the Four Freedoms "were received by the public with more enthusiasm, perhaps, than any other paintings in the history of American art."

Over the course of a long and industrious career, Charles Hargens (1893-1997) focused his illustrations on themes of the Old West and the American Revolutionary period. His drawings and paintings of cowboys driving cattle, Native Americans against the backdrop of Mount Rushmore and patriots huddled in front of a campfire quickly built him a reputation as one of America's finest illustrators. His work regularly appeared on the front of the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Country Gentleman and Boys' Life. He created hundreds of book covers for prestigious publishing houses and his work became the mainstay of Stetson Hat advertisements.

Charles Hargens: American Illustrator, organized by the Michener Art Museum, gathers more than a dozen paintings including works used as covers for the Saturday Evening Post. The exhibition also features a charcoal-on-paper portrait of Hargens by Ben Solowey, a publisher's promotional flyer for Portrait of a Marriage by Pearl S. Buck (for which Hargens illustrated the novel's cover), plus magazines and photographs related to the artist's work.

Remembered as a Bucks County, Pennsylvania artist by many, Hargens spent his youth in the Black Hills of South Dakota on a sprawling ranch near the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Sioux Indians. As the son of a frontier surgeon, Hargens developed close friendships with the Indians, who-while awaiting treatment from his father-served as subjects for the young artist's first drawings. After high school in Iowa, Hargens moved to Philadelphia to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he became a star pupil and dear friend of the renowned painter Daniel Garber. In 1940, Hargens moved to Carversville in Bucks County , Pennsylvania and became an integral part of its growing arts community.

The president of Dakota Wesleyan University best summed up Hargens' talent as a "mastery of realism, historically accurate detail and ability to capture the spirit of place." According to the illustrator himself, "I was fascinated by the doings of people. I wanted to depict life as it was, life as it is, life as it would be. That human element was the determining factor for me."

In conjunction with these exhibitions, the Museum presents two special lectures:

Bill Hargens, son of Charles Hargens, presents "Charles Hargens: American Illustrator" on Wednesday, October 24 at 1:00 p.m.
 
Thomas Daly, Curator of Education at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, presents "Norman Rockwell's View of the Home Front" on Thursday, November 15 at 2:00 p.m. 

Fee for members and non-members. The price includes general admission to the Museum. Advanced registration is required. For more information or to register for programs, please visit www.michenerartmuseum.org or call (215) 340-9800. 

 


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Willie Gillis: USO, The Saturday Evening Post cover of February 7, 1942, Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum © 1942 SEPS: Licensed by the Curtis Publishing Company, Indianapolis, IN, All rights reserved. )

 

(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Rosie the Riveter, The Saturday Evening Post cover of May 29, 1943, Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum © 1943 SEPS: Licensed by the Curtis Publishing Company, Indianapolis, IN, All rights reserved. )

 

(above: Charles W. Hargens (1893-1997), Mt. Rushmore with the tribe of Native Americans, n.d., Oil on canvas, H. 26 x W. 30 inches, Collection of C. William Hargens, III )

 

(above: Charles W. Hargens (1893-1997), Midnight Muster-December 23, 1776 , n.d., Oil with acrylic on board, H. 48 x W. 108.125 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum, Gift of T. Sidney Cadwallader II )


 

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