Private Moments for the Masses
As Leonardo da Vinci aptly observed, every work of art is an inevitable act in the autobiography of self-portraiture — an observation that would certainly be true of Norman Rockwell’s published imagery, which reached millions on the covers and pages of American magazines,” said Stephanie Plunkett, deputy director/chief curator at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. The museum houses the preeminent collection of Rockwell’s original paintings, many of which were pictured on Saturday Evening Post magazine covers. It mounted the exhibition “Norman Rockwell: Private Moments for the Masses,” on view June to October 2019, which explored the autobiographical nature of Rockwell’s art. The exhibition was done in celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary. “This special 50th anniversary exhibition steps behind the scenes to explore the autobiographical aspects of Rockwell’s art through imagery that conveyed, in subtle and direct ways, the artist’s personal narrative,” Plunkett said. “His carefully constructed artwork engaged an appreciative audience for decades, yet few would have imagined all that it revealed about the inner workings of his life – from his interests and observations to his anxieties and experiences.
Rockwell’s own experiences made for good subject matter in many of his illustrations, recalling the gleeful pranks of childhood, his art school and fledgling professional years, the joys and challenges of being a husband and father, and his occasional brushes with fame. “A strong visual story concept was ‘the first thing and the last thing’ for the artist, and almost any subject could serve as inspiration for his highly visible work,” Plunkett said. “As observed by his eldest son, Jarvis, his family felt that they were ‘living out the cover of a Saturday Evening Post – perhaps no surprise, as perceived authenticity is a hallmark of Rockwell’s success.