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The National Museum of American Illustration



The National Museum of American Illustration has been recently gifted a significant painting by America’s most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell. Gifted by a private collector, The Choirboy was first published as a cover for the Saturday Evening Post on April 17, 1954. “This is by far the most significant gift to the Museum in our 7-year history,” says Laurence Cutler, Chairman and co-founder. “The NMAI is rapidly becoming acknowledged as a major destination for Norman Rockwell fans. This gift is most affirming to our Museum’s mission, and our efforts to date”. The gift comes on the heels of the Sotheby’s American Paintings auction, in which Rockwell’s painting Breaking Home Ties fetched $15.4 million, a record price for the artist.

Image above left: NORMAN ROCKWELL (1894-1978) THE CHOIRBOY 1954, oil on canvas, Saturday Evening Post, April 17, 1954

The subject of youth was one of Norman Rockwell's favorite themes throughout his long tenure as the Saturday Evening Post's most popular cover artist. More than half of his 1950’s covers featured children, and Rockwell made numerous references to his own childhood in his paintings, as illustrated in The Choirboy. Recalling his days in the church choir, Rockwell wrote, "On Sundays in the choir room we roughhoused and shouted and wrestled while donning our cassocks and surplices. The Sexton, poking his head around the door, would yell that it was time for us to enter the church. Plastering down our cowlicks, pushing, jostling, we'd form two lines. Then, suddenly, we'd grow quiet and, solemn-faced, march into the church." (The Norman Rockwell Album, p. 140)

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Rockwell uses a paneled archway to frame the setting, and through it we glimpse at the proof of last-minute preparations in the scattered clothing, sneakers, and abandoned roller skates. Such "behind-the-scenes" treatment appears throughout Rockwell's Post covers, a vantage point which allowed him to show the human side of his protagonists with humor and compassion. Rockwell's Pittsfield neighbor Tom Chappell posed for The Choirboy, his "boy-next- door" appeal embodied in his rumpled striped socks, worn- out shoes, and earnest expression. Chappell typifies the kind of model that Rockwell sought out among family, friends and neighbors.

On loan to the Museum since last year, the painting is exhibited in Vernon Court’s Petit Salon Gallery where it hangs with other Saturday Evening Post covers by Rockwell. Here in the Petit Salon, visitors and scholars are able to compare examples of his cover illustration work from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s; this image represents Rockwell’s work from the 1950’s. This gift fills a significant role in the Museum’s current exhibition, as Norman Rockwell is so strongly associated with the Saturday Evening Post in most people’s minds.

The NMAI will be participating in the New York Times, 2007 Arts & Leisure Weekend. The Museum and Museum Shop will be open Friday, January 5 from 10AM to 4PM, Saturday, January 6 from 10AM to 3PM and Sunday, January 7 from 10AM to 3PM for self guided tours with buy one get one free admission. Tickets are $25, Seniors 60+ and military with id, $22, Children 12 and under are not admitted.

If you are unable to join us for the up-coming Arts & Leisure Weekend and you would like to visit during the 2007 winter season, please call 401-851-8949 ext. 18 well in advance to possibly be included in a prescheduled group tour

Please consider a gift to the NMAI to further support our efforts at preserving these artifacts of American Culture in perpetuity. Contact: Lee Ann Scotto T:401-851-8949 x 31, or Email: The NMAI is administered by the American Civilization Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.

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Lee Ann Scotto, Assistant to the Director, The National Museum of American Illustration, Vernon Court, 492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840. T: 401-851-8949 ext.31 F: 401-851-8974

The 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 Beaux-Arts adaptation of an 18th century French chateau by architects Carrere & Hastings. 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, and 75 others are displayed in ‘Gilded Age’ architecture, creating a unique union of art and architecture- 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.

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National Museum of American Illustration | 492 Bellevue Avenue | Newport | RI | 02840