Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was a 20th-century American author, painter and illustrator whose works appealed to a broad population in the United States for its reflection of American culture. Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over a period of nearly five decades.
Finding success at a young age, Rockwell became the art director of Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America in his teenage years. At age 21, Rockwell set up a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe and in 1916, the 22-year-old Rockwell painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post. Over the next 47 years, another 321 Rockwell covers would appear on the cover of the Post.
Early in his career, Rockwell would hire professional models to pose for the characters in his paintings. However, beginning in the mid-1930s he embraced photography and began using friends and neighbors rather than professional models. For Rockwell, already known as “the kid with the camera eye,” photography was more than an artist’s aid. The familiarity with his new subjects paired with the camera’s ability to capture a fleeting expression or freeze a difficult pose, brought a new flesh-and-blood realism to his work and opened a window to the keenly observed authenticity that defines his art.
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera is the first exhibition to delve deeply into Rockwell’s richly detailed study photographs, created by the artist as references for his iconic paintings. Organized with author and guest curator, Ron Schick, the exhibition reveals a rarely seen yet fundamental aspect of Rockwell’s creative process and unveils a significant new body of Rockwell imagery in an unexpected medium and showcases the behind-the-scenes shots as works of art themselves.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera is the first book to explore the meticulously composed and richly detailed photographs that Norman Rockwell used to create his famous artworks. Working alongside skilled photographers, Rockwell acted as director, carefully orchestrating models, selecting props, and choosing locations for the photographs--works of art in their own right--that served as the basis of his iconic images. Readers will be surprised to find that many of his most memorable characters--the girl at the mirror, the young couple on prom night, the family on vacation--were friends and neighbors who served as his amateur models. In this groundbreaking book, author and historian Ron Schick delves into the archive of nearly 20,000 photographs housed at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Featuring reproductions of Rockwell's black-and-white photographs and related full-color artworks, along with an incisive narrative and quotes from Rockwell models and family members, this book will intrigue anyone interested in photography, art, and Americana.