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Norman Rockwell Museum Turns 50

Norman Rockwell Museum Turns 50

by KATHRYN BOUGHTON

It is a year of 50th anniversaries for Stockbridge as the legacies of two noted artists and one venerable hostelry are celebrated. The Red Lion Inn, Chesterwood, the former home of sculptor Daniel Chester French, and the Norman Rockwell Museum are all reaching memorable milestone, each planning events to celebrate their deep roots in America’s past.

The Rockwell Museum marks its history as the nation’s leading center for illustration art with three special exhibitions exploring Rockwell’s art, life and legacy; the year 1969; as well as an installation of photographs and artifacts that evoke Stockbridge’s Old Corner House, the museum’s first site.

Museum Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt said, “From its inception, 50 years ago, Norman Rockwell Museum has presented exhibitions that share our common humanity and reflect social change. Illustrators portrayed not only the events of the time—but captured the feelings, hopes, concerns, and spirit of the generation. The final year of the 1960s provides a wealth of illustrated works to explore in this exhibition including many iconic images which continue to represent the era.”

The featured exhibitions open June 8th and continue through October 2th. Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated explores how illustrators treated the final year in a tumultuous decade that saw great scientific strides even as the nation tore itself to pieces over the Vietnam War and the counter-culture exploded the myth of Rockwell’s carefully crafted image of American homogeneity.

Culled from the museum’s collection and private and public collections around the country, this exhibition illuminates how Rockwell and other illustrators portrayed their times. Seminal works in the exhibition include Rockwell’s iconic depictions of the first moonwalk and of key events in the civil rights movement, presidential portraits, images of the war on poverty and the war in Vietnam and his first rock album cover. Works by contemporaneous illustrators and designers will include the famous Woodstock concert poster by Arnold Skolnick and examples of the inventive psychedelic art created that year for album covers, magazines and posters.

In Norman Rockwell: Private Moments for the Masses, visitors can explore autobiographical elements in Rockwell’s illustrations for American publications, most notably for The Saturday Evening Post, with which he maintained a decades long collaboration. His whimsical, often poignant, scenes depicted an America everyone wished to believe in but that was often at odds with his own conflicted life. The exhibition includes works such as Art Critic (1955), The Runaway (1958), Triple Self Portrait (1960) as well as other iconic pictures, rarely seen early works, candid photographs, personal effects, correspondence and date-book diary entries.

The exhibition reflects upon Rockwell’s observations and state of mind—sometimes at odds with his scenes of familial bliss and small-town charm. Indeed, Rockwell, who was born in New York City in 1894 and enjoyed early artistic success as a precocious teenager—by age 19 he was artistic editor for Boy’s Life magazine—was not the product of the small-town life he so cleverly depicted in his bucolic settings peopled by freckle-faced boys, frolicking dogs, plump grandmothers and kindly law officers.

His art masked the truth of his experience. A gawky, beanpole of a boy, he struggled to achieve the John Wayne concept of manhood his era embraced. He was a consummate illustrator but often expressed dissatisfaction with the limitations of his field of endeavor. He married three times and had three sons but was a distant husband and parent, whose son, Jarvis, once said, "What I wanted was love."

In February 1959, Rockwell appeared on Edward R. Murrow’s celebrity-interview television show, i>Person to Person, and described how much he and his family loved living in Stockbridge MA, never mentioning that they moved there from Southern Vermont because the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric institute, was located there. Rockwell’s second wife, Mary, a chronic alcoholic, received medical care there.

Several years earlier, Rockwell, who suffered from bouts of acute depression, had entered into therapy with Erik Erikson, a renowned developmental psychoanalyst. In an exhibition titled Inspired: Norman Rockwell and Erik Erikson the museum explores the relationship of these two men, who inspired each other’s creativity in important ways. Work on view will include images of Erikson’s own art, Rockwell artworks that were directly influenced by Erikson and a collection of Rockwell portraits of Erikson and other clinical staff from Austen Riggs.

This exhibition is organized by the museum in collaboration with the Austen Riggs Center—another Stockbridge institution celebrating an important milestone, its 100th anniversary, in 2019.

In addition to the exhibitions, the museum will hold an Art Talk, Meet Rockwell’s Models, June 7 at 3PM; a Conversation and Continental Brunch with Sue Erikson Bloland, a psychoanalyst and daughter of Erik Erikson, Saturday June 8 at 11AM (reservation required, email register@nrm.org); a Family Walks & Talks to explore the exhibitions on view, Saturday, June 8, 1PM and 3:30-5PM; a Meet and Greet with Artist Peter Rockwell, Rockwell’s youngest son, Saturday, June 8, 2PM.

A 50th Anniversary Summer Exhibitions Member/Donor Preview Party will be held Friday, June 7, 5:30-7:30PM, offering attendees the chance to be the first to see this summer’s exhibits. The sneak preview is just for members and donors and includes cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres and gallery walks. Reservations must be made by June 2 by emailing rsvp@nrm.org. For information call 413-931-2265.

Finally, and certainly not least, a 50th Anniversary Gala is slated for June 22, starting at 6PM with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and interactive entertainment. The evening continues with a sit-down dinner created by chef Brian Alberg of Main Street Hospitality, followed by dancing to the music of the Wanda Houston Band. Tickets range from $15,000 for a reserved table for 10 in the Director category to $1,200 for two at the Contributor level. For information call Bailey Girvan at 413-931-2264 or email BGirvan@nmr.org. Reservations must be made by June 12.

The museum is open seven days a week, 10AM. to 5PM daily, open until 7PM. on Thursdays during the month of August. Admission is $20, $18 for seniors, $17 for military veterans, $10 for students, and free for children 18 and under. The museum welcomes EBT cardholders and active U.S. military members with free admission throughout the year. Additionally, it is a Blue Star museum and offers active US military personnel and their immediate family complimentary admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day.



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