Winnipeg, Manitoba.- The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is pleased to present “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell”, on view at the gallery from March 2nd through May 20th. WAG is the only Canadian venue for this travelling exhibition. The exhibition features over 40 major paintings, the complete set of 323 Saturday Evening Post tear-sheet covers, and a group of rarely seen preparatory works and artifacts – all from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.“This historic touring exhibition is the first ever major retrospective of Rockwell’s paintings in Canada,” says Director Stephen Borys. “The show is attracting significant crowds on its American circuit, such as at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, which saw over 106,000 visitors. This is your chance to view this important exhibition and take in an exciting array of related programs and events, the details of which can all be viewed at wag.rockwell.ca, a new micro-website dedicated to the show.”
One of the most popular American artists of the past century, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) chronicled our changing society in the small details and nuanced scenes of ordinary people in everyday life, providing a personalized interpretation—often an idealized one—of American identity. Rockwell’s contributions to our visual legacy, many of them now icons of North American culture, have found a permanent place in our psyche. His images tell stories that still resonate today, reminding us what is important in our lives. Produced through the Norman Rockwell Museum and made possible by the Mauro Family Foundation Inc., audio guides narrated by Rockwell’s son Peter are included with Gallery admission. Peter Rockwell will also be in Winnipeg in late April presenting two talks (April 25 & 27) and a tour (April 25) in conjunction with the show. Visitors will enjoy an interactive zone set up in the Galleries, complete with a life sized Saturday Evening Post cover backdrop, and the chance to relax in period furniture provided by Lindsey Steek & Company. Youth ages 18 and under are invited to enter the Rockwell Art Contest by designing a magazine cover, the winner of which will have their design featured in the Winnipeg Free Press. The public can even Adopt-A-Rockwell to pay tribute to someone special like never before.
Norman Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894, in New York City to Jarvis Waring Rockwell and Anne Mary “Nancy” (born Hill) Rockwell. His earliest American ancestor was John Rockwell (1588–1662), from Somerset, England, who immigrated to America probably in 1635 aboard the ship Hopewell and became one of the first settlers of Windsor, Connecticut. He had one brother, Jarvis Waring Rockwell, Jr., older by a year and half. Jarvis Waring, Sr., was the manager of the New York office of a Philadelphia textile firm, George Wood, Sons & Company, where he spent his entire career. Norman transferred from high school to the Chase Art School at the age of 14. He then went on to the National Academy of Design and finally to the Art Students League. There, he was taught by Thomas Fogarty, George Bridgman, and Frank Vincent DuMond; his early works were produced for St. Nicholas Magazine, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) publication Boys’ Life and other juvenile publications. Joseph Csatari carried on his legacy and style for the BSA. As a student, Rockwell was given smaller, less important jobs. His first major breakthrough came in 1912 at age eighteen with his first book illustration for Carl H. Claudy’s Tell Me Why: Stories about Mother Nature. In 1913, the nineteen-year old Rockwell became the art editor for Boys’ Life, published by the Boy Scouts of America, a post he held for three years (1913–1916). As part of that position, he painted several covers, beginning with his first published magazine cover, Scout at Ship’s Wheel, appearing on the Boys’ Life September 1913 edition. During the First World War, he tried to enlist into the U.S. Navy but was refused entry because, at 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and 140 pounds (64 kg), he was eight pounds underweight. To compensate, he spent one night gorging himself on bananas, liquids and doughnuts, and weighed enough to enlist the next day. However, he was given the role of a military artist and did not see any action during his tour of duty. Rockwell’s family moved to New Rochelle, New York when Norman was 21 years old and shared a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe, who worked for The Saturday Evening Post. With Forsythe’s help, he submitted his first successful cover painting to the Post in 1916, Mother’s Day Off (published on May 20). He followed that success with Circus Barker and Strongman (published on June 3), Gramps at the Plate (August 5), Redhead Loves Hatty Perkins (September 16), People in a Theatre Balcony (October 14) and Man Playing Santa (December 9). Rockwell was published eight times total on the Post cover within the first twelve months. Norman Rockwell published a total of 322 original covers for The Saturday Evening Post over 47 years. His Sharp Harmony appeared on the cover of the issue dated September 26, 1936; depicts a barber and three clients, enjoying an a cappella song.Rockwell’s success on the cover of the Post led to covers for other magazines of the day, most notably The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman, Leslie’s Weekly, Judge, Peoples Popular Monthly and Life Magazine.
In 1943, during the Second World War, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms series, which was completed in seven months and resulted in his losing 15 pounds. The series was inspired by a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he described four principles for universal rights: Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, and Freedom from Fear. The paintings were published in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post. The United States Department of the Treasury later promoted war bonds by exhibiting the originals in 16 cities. Rockwell himself considered “Freedom of Speech” to be the best of the four. That same year a fire in his studio destroyed numerous original paintings, costumes, and props. Shortly after the war, Rockwell was contacted by writer Elliott Caplin, brother of cartoonist Al Capp, with the suggestion that the three of them should make a daily comic strip together, with Caplin and his brother writing and Rockwell drawing. King Features Syndicate is reported to have promised a $1,000/week deal, knowing that a Capp-Rockwell collaboration would gain strong public interest. However, the project was ultimately aborted as it turned out that Rockwell, known for his perfectionism as an artist, could not deliver material as fast as required of him for a daily comic strip. During the late 1940s, Norman Rockwell spent the winter months as artist-in-residence at Otis College of Art and Design. Students occasionally were models for his Saturday Evening Post covers. In 1949, Rockwell donated an original Post cover, “April Fool,” to be raffled off in a library fund raiser. In 1959, his wife Mary died unexpectedly, and Rockwell took time off from his work to grieve. It was during this break that he and his son Thomas produced his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, which was published in 1960. The Post printed excerpts from this book in eight consecutive issues, the first containing Rockwell’s famous Triple Self-Portrait. Rockwell married his third wife, retired Milton Academy English teacher, Molly Punderson, in 1961. His last painting for the Post was published in 1963, marking the end of a publishing relationship that had included 322 cover paintings. He spent the next 10 years painting for Look magazine, where his work depicted his interests in civil rights, poverty and space exploration. In 1968 Rockwell was commissioned to do an album cover portrait of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper for their record, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. During his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. One of his last works was a portrait of Judy Garland in 1969. A custodianship of his original paintings and drawings was established with Rockwell’s help near his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the Norman Rockwell Museum is still open today year round. Norman Rockwell Museum is the authoritative source for all things Norman Rockwell. The Museum’s collection is the world’s largest, including more than 700 original Rockwell paintings, drawings, and studies. The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies at the Norman Rockwell Museum is a national research institute dedicated to American illustration art. When he was concerned with his health he placed his studio and the contents with the Norman Rockwell Museum, which was formerly known as the Stockbridge Historical society and even more formerly known as the Old Corner house, in a trust. For “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country,” Rockwell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, in 1977. Rockwell died November 8, 1978 of emphysema at age 84 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. First Lady Rosalynn Carter attended his funeral.
The WAG was established in 1912 when a group of Winnipeg businessmen, recognizing “the civilizing effects of art,” each contributed $200 and rented two rooms in the old Federal Building at the corner of Main and Water Streets. Thus, the WAG was born, becoming the first civic art gallery in Canada. Now approaching its centenary in 2012, the Winnipeg Art Gallery has developed from a small civic gallery to Canada’s sixth largest gallery with an international reputation. As it expanded, the WAG relocated premises several times to accommodate its growing collection, including its former residence in what is now the Manitoba Archives Building on St. Mary Avenue. The 1950s witnessed the beginning of several of the WAG’s specialized collections, including that of Inuit Art. The WAG is now home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world with over 10,730 works. The Decorative Arts collection, another area of specialized collecting, also began in the 1950s since when the WAG has amassed over 4,000 pieces of decorative art, covering diverse media of ceramic, glass, metal, and textiles dating from the 17th century to the mid-20th century. The third specialized collection began considerably later in the 1980s with the designation of the photography collection which now numbers some 1,300 works, largely of contemporary Canadian origin. Designed by Winnipeg architect Gustavo da Roza, built of pale Manitoba Tyndall stone, the current WAG building rises like the prow of a ship on its own triangular “ocean.” It was opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, on September 25, 1971. In addition to eight galleries, the building contains a 320-seat auditorium, a rooftop sculpture garden and restaurant, a research library, a gift shop, and extensive meeting and lecture space. The WAG footprint expanded in October 1995 with the opening of the new WAG Studio Building next door in the renovated Mall Medical Building. Home to the Gallery’s art classes, the WAG facility is the largest program of its kind in Canada, offering children and adults art classes taught by professional artists. Visit the museum’s website at … http://wag.ca