The Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge, MA



The Norman Rockwell Museum Presents a New Exhibit

Family Ties: Rockwell's Art for Family, Friends and Fun


Family Ties: Rockwell's Art for Family, Friends and Fun, a new exhibit opening at the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts on June 7, 1997, explores the personal life of Norman Rockwell through images of family members, travel sketches and art made for friends. The works in this exhibit, many from the private and personally significant collection retained by Rockwell and his family, offers a unique glimpse into the life of the man behind the art. This exhibit, mounted in three galleries of the museum, will run through October 26, 1997.

Norman Rockwell, Houghton's Mill

Family Ties provides a glimpse into the private side of one of America's best-known artists. It highlights artwork by Norman Rockwell that reflects his personal life including final magazine covers featuring Rockwell family members as models, illustrated postcards, letters, and personal portraits and illustrations which the Rockwells chose to hang on the walls of their home. Of special note are Rockwell's pen and ink drawings, on loan from a private collector, for the chapter headings from Rockwell's autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, published in 1960.



Norman Rockwell, Across Kensington Gardens


During a career that spanned seven decades, Norman Rockwell was extremely prolific, creating over 2600 published illustrations and the many color and charcoal studies used to develop these final images. Relatively few of Rockwell's works were non-commissioned; even portraits of his family members and friends were sometimes done as illustrations for publication.

In Rockwell's later years, he did some painting and sketching that was not on commission. Many of these landscapes and portraits were done on his extensive travels through the United States and internationally and are included in this exhibition. Some of the other works in the exhibition were created as part of an art class taken in the early 1960s in an effort to get himself out of his studio and improve his work. These non-commissioned pictures are very different in style, technique and even medium from those done for publication.

Norman Rockwell, Your Faithfull Friend


One of the earliest works in the exhibition is a self-portrait from the 1920s. The charcoal drawing, which was not done for publication, shows a sweet, somewhat serious young Norman Rockwell. In the inscription, Rockwell's sense of humor, often at his own expense, is evident: "To my brother Jarvis, from funny face, Norman Rockwell." This is the earliest known self-portrait by the illustrator who became famous for using himself as a model in his illustrations.

Family Ties also contains a series of letters, written while Tom Rockwell, his second son, was in high school in Arlington, Vermont. These letters, written to excuse Tom's school absences, also show Rockwell's sense of humor. The excuses range from having a cold to deer hunting. In the latter, a sketch of an intrepid hinter with rifle, tracking a six-point buck, is drawn across the bottom of the page. Illustrated travel postcards and drawings for family greeting cards are among other Rockwell correspondences, often created with a distinct style and whimsy not seen in published illustrations.

Norman Rockwell, Great Expectations



Some of the pictures in the exhibit show Rockwell's extensive travels. He and his family lived in Europe and California at various times of their lives. In the 1960s and 1970s, he and his wife Molly traveled to many places around the world. Sometimes the trips were related to specific commissions, such as Rockwell's illustrations for Look magazine's story on the Peace Corps, which took the Rockwells to Africa, Asia and South America. Other travels were purely for pleasure and personal reasons.

During his travels, Rockwell painted and sketched and seemed to take great pleasure in this very private art. During his trip to Europe in 1927, Rockwell's sketchbook was stolen in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. Writing about the experience in his autobiography thirty years late, he wrote..."I'd done it just for my own pleasure. No deadline; I wasn't planning to sell it. I still almost cry when I think about it. I've never lost anything I felt so bad about."



Rockwell's sketchbook from his 1932 European sojourn survives, as do a number of travel portraits and landscapes from later trips. Rockwell rarely used watercolor in his illustration work but used watercolor as well as oils in his travel paintings. These works, done from life and without studies, have freshness and spontaneity not found in Rockwell's final illustrations and are more impressionistic and less detailed. Charcoal and pencil drawings, however, show Rockwell's control of the medium and innate attention to detail, even when working for no one's approval but his own.

Family Ties: Rockwell's Art for Family, Friends and Fun features both public, published works and the personal art meant for Norman Rockwell's eyes, and those of a few close family members and friends. Both kinds of images, however, provide insight into the private side of this celebrated and renowned figure.




Images and text courtesy of Norman Rockwell Museum.

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