Rockwell Meets The Old Masters at Dulwich
Dulwich visitor viewing Saturday Evening Post covers from Norman Rockwell's America...In England
On December 15, 2010, the exhibition Norman Rockwell's America...In England
debuted at Dulwich Picture Gallery, the oldest art museum in the United
Kingdom. The exhibition, organized by the National Museum of American
Illustration (Newport, RI), and the American Illustrators Gallery (NYC),
features 40 original paintings by Norman Rockwell, as well as all 323
of the vintage Saturday Evening Post covers illustrated by the artist.
exhibition drew record setting attendance at Dulwich, as well as
critical acclaim following its debut. The super-positive reviews and
crowd levels have continued since. With the March 27 end of the
exhibition's London showing drawing near, we share with our MuseNews
subscribers a short essay written by NMAI Museum Director and Co-Founder
Judy Goffman Cutler which describes the genesis of Norman Rockwell's America...In England,
as well as why Dulwich - with one of Europe's most notable collections
of Old Master paintings - is a particularly appropriate venue for
viewing Norman Rockwell's art.
The following exhibition observation was authored by Judy Goffman Cutler and originally published online in Dulwich On View, February 25, 2011.
the Spring of 2009, my husband Laurence and I travelled to London on a
brief business trip. Once there, we visited Dulwich Picture Gallery to
see the Sickert in Venice exhibition. While walking through the early 19th century building surrounded by their outstanding collection, we decided to introduce ourselves to the Gallery's director.
Director Ian Dejardin was available and graciously came down to the
Gallery to meet with us. After brief introductions it became clear that a
mutual love of both American and Illustration art would make a joint
exhibition possible. Our Norman Rockwell's America
was in the middle of a tour in the US and had an opening for the Winter
2010-2011. There, beneath the Old Masters whose techniques and styles
influenced Rockwell's oeuvre so immensely, an agreement was reached to
bring Rockwell to England for the first time ever.
In seemingly no time, summer passed and we were back in London for the installation of Norman Rockwell's America.
Now, viewing Rockwell's paintings alongside the multitude of Old
Masters' works surpassed my expectations of what new meaning this could
bring to Rockwell for both the audience and myself, alike.
Santa's Workshop. Norman Rockwell, 1922
Girl at Window. Rembrandt, 1645
Rembrandt's stylistic play of light in Girl at a Window echoes throughout Rockwell's Santa's Workshop.
The model's angled position toward the viewer and direct light from an
unseen outside source gives a sense of gentle intimacy to this moment of
Santa's quiet self-amusement, similar to Rembrandt's softness in his
portrayal of this young girl.
The largest piece we brought to Dulwich, Winchester Stagecoach,
shows a bustling English town during the hectic Christmas season.
Rockwell's composition, cropping the action so ambient characters are
only shown in small portions around the central figures, is the same as
the Old Master rendering of actions scenes from within a story, such as
Poussin's Triumph of David.
Winchester Stage Coach. Norman Rockwell, 1941
The Triumph of David. Nicolas Poussin, 1628-1631
Poussin illustrates the biblical story of
David and Goliath with David's victory parade, carrying the head of
Goliath on a spear as the crowds celebrate in their wake. Despite the
number of non-essential characters in the painting, Poussin is able to
direct the viewer's attention to David while the remaining figures
simply add to the scene's atmosphere and excitement; Rockwell used this
same technique for his characters in the Winchester shopping
Finally, I was struck by Rockwell's interpretation of Old Masters' renderings of narrative scenes. In Guido Reni's St. John the Baptist,
he used a dynamic diagonal position for the central character and
incorporated small, but crucial, background elements to convey an entire
story to the viewer.
St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness. Guido Reni, 1636
It is through this technique of choosing only the crucial elements from
within a story to include that made Rockwell such a successful cover
artist. In Christmas Knight, the knight takes a similar
diagonal position as he peers through the stained glass window to
glimpse the festivities occurring just inside. The viewer instantly
understands the larger context from which this moment was isolated,
drawing them into the magazine.
Rockwell was only sixteen years old he left high school to enroll in
the National Academy of Design in New York City and then the Art
Students League to develop his early artistic talents. It was this
formal training as a fine artist and in his study of Old Masters
that he developed the skill, style and technique that would later be
interpreted into successful illustrations, gracing the covers of the
nation's most popular magazines.
Christmas Knight. Norman Rockwell, 1930
Viewing these works in the context of Dulwich's collection,
I can not help but wonder what future generations of artists will
take from Rockwell's works and what they will make of it.
this continual renewing of the foundations set forth by previous
generations that has allowed the arts within each nation to develop into
what they are today. This exhibition has given us, as Americans, the
rare opportunity to share with a new British audience the images that we
have grown up with. It is our hope that by furthering this connection
between American and British art, we will inspire future artists in both
Norman Rockwell's America...In England will show at Dulwich until March 27. The exhibition Norman Rockwell's America...In Newport
will debut in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday, May 28, to coincide
with the beginning of our Summer 2011 General Admissions Season.
National Museum of American Illustration
492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840
T: 401-851-8949 ext. 18. F: 401-851-8974
Museum is open Fridays for a guided tour only at 3pm sharp, and
year-round for visitors and Group Tours by advance reservations. General
Admissions Hours resume Memorial Day weekend, 2011.
$18; Seniors (60+) & Military: $16; Students w/id: $12; Children
ages 5 to 12: $8. Children ages 5 to 12 are permitted only if they are
vouchsafed by parents or guardians as being 'well-behaved.'
Visitors at Norman Rockwell's America...In England
National Museum of American Illustration is a nonprofit, independent,
educational and aesthetic organization. It is located in Newport, RI, on
Bellevue Avenue at Vernon Court (1898), a Carrére and Hastings designed
Beaux-Arts adaptation of an 18th century French chateau. It is the
first national museum devoted exclusively to American illustration art.
Illustration consists of original artwork created to be reproduced in
books, magazines, newspapers, and advertisements. 'Golden Age' paintings
by such luminaries as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth, JC
Leyendecker, and 75 others are displayed in 'Gilded Age' architecture,
creating a unique union of architecture and art - a national treasure.
The Museum is administered by the American Civilization Foundation, a
nonprofit organization with the goal to present the best possible venue
for appreciating the greatest collection of illustration art - the most American of American art. |
NOTICE: This email message and its contents are copyrighted and are our
proprietary products. Any unauthorized use, reproduction, or transfer
of this message or its contents, in any medium, is strictly prohibited.
©2011 National Museum of American Illustration.