Norman Rockwell Museum Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge, MA

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Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Route 183
Stockbridge, MA 01262
413-298-4100 x 221


Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom explores the indelible odyssey of humanity’s greatest ideals.
Through January 18, 2021.

Returning to Stockbridge following a six city tour that has taken Rockwell’s art and the work of other creators to New York, Detroit, Washington DC, Normandy, France, Houston, and Denver, Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom explores the indelible odyssey of the Four Freedoms, humanity’s greatest and sometimes most elusive ideals.

The power of images to shape cultural narratives is revealed in this dynamic and evolving exhibition, which invites viewers to trace the origins and legacy of the Four Freedoms from the trials of the Great Depression and World War II to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and the call for freedom today across racial, gender, ethnic, and religious lines. Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom inspires conversation about our most pressing social concerns through the lens of art and history, and invites us to consider how we can become allies in the creation of a more humane world.

Rockwell’s most iconic works, including the legendary Four Freedoms paintings inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision for a peaceful post-war world; the artist’s personal plea for unity in The Golden Rule; his call for human rights in The Problem We All Live With and Murder in Mississippi; and his petition for truth and transparency in The Right to Know reflect the artist’s desire to make a difference. More than forty Rockwell artworks are joined by paintings, drawings, photography, and writings of artists working across the decades for the cause of freedom, including Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein, Mead Schaeffer, Arthur Szyk, Martha Sawyers, Langston Hughes, Thomas Lea, Boris Artzybasheff, and Denys Wortman, among others. Reimagining the Four Freedoms, a multi-media exhibition component, presents thought-provoking perspectives by forty contemporary artists who explore society’s hopes and aspirations for a free and just world. Highlighted among them is a suite of striking recreations by Maurice Pops Peterson, who presents a vision of Rockwell’s art for a new age. Also on view is The Unity Project, a series of original poster illustrations by noted artists Mai Ly Degnan, Rudy Gutierrez, Anita Kunz, Tim O’Brien, Whitney Sherman, and Yuko Shimizu that are designed to inspire Americans to participate in the democratic process by voting.

The Four Freedoms in History
The notion of the Four Freedoms has inspired dozens of national constitutions across the globe, yet Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration that the United States was willing to fight for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear—now considered a sublime moment in rhetorical history—did not turn out to be the immediate triumph envisioned by the President. As the nation found itself sliding ever closer to direct involvement in World War II, the underlying meaning of his words captured surprisingly little attention among Americans. Following his January 6, 1941, Annual Message to Congress, government surveys showed that only half of Americans were aware of FDR’s Four Freedoms and that less than a quarter could identify them correctly. Moreover, many had no clear idea why the United States was being called upon to enter the war.

It would take the continuous efforts of the White House, the Office of War Information, and scores of patriotic artists to give the Four Freedoms new life. Most prominent among those was Norman Rockwell, whose images became a national sensation in early 1943 when they were first published in The Saturday Evening Post. Roosevelt’s words and Rockwell’s artworks soon became inseparable in the public consciousness, with millions of reproductions publicizing the Second War Loan Drive bringing the Four Freedoms directly into American homes and workplaces. When Eleanor Roosevelt convinced United Nations delegates to include these ideals in its postwar statement of human rights, FDR’s words—now forever entwined with Rockwell’s images—achieved immortality.

Born amid the turmoil of World War II, the Four Freedoms have since become one of its greatest legacies, a testament to the paramount importance of human rights and dignity. Brought forward by one of America’s greatest presidents and immortalized by one of its most beloved artists more than seventy-five years ago, the Four Freedoms continue to inspire, resonating across generations as strongly today as they did in their time.

This exhibition is divided into five sections, you can learn more about each:

– The War Generation
– Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms
– The Artistic Response
– Rockwell’s Four Freedoms
– Freedom’s Legacy

Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom is an exhibition organized by Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.

Major support has been generously provided by Jay Alix | The Alix Foundation and George Lucas Family Foundation, and by national presenting sponsor The Travelers Companies, Inc. Additional support is provided by an anonymous donor, Michael Bakwin, Helen Bing, Elephant Rock Foundation, Ford Foundation, Heritage Auctions, Annie and Ned Lamont, National Endowment for the Arts, and Ted Slavin. Media sponsors include: Curtis Licensing, a division of The Saturday Evening Post, and Norman Rockwell Family Agency.

The Unity Project: Art that Inspires us to VOTE.
January 18, 2021.

The Unity Project calls upon all Americans to uphold democracy by voting.

This dynamic digital poster campaign aims to inspire citizens to vote. Striking images by the nation’s top illustrators work to establish unity and belonging among all Americans, who share in common the right to elect a government of the people.

Norman Rockwell Museum steps into the public square in a new way with a unification project in support of democracy—a rally to vote campaign highlighting original concepts by six leading contemporary illustrators commissioned by the Museum to create motivational art in the great illustrated poster tradition.

Compelling works by Mai Ly Degnan, Rudy Gutierrez, Anita Kunz, Tim O’Brien, Whitney Sherman, and Yuko Shimizu reflect each artist’s personal voice and a diverse range of artistic approaches.

Pops Peterson: Rockwell Revisited
Through January 17, 2021

In 2015, Berkshire-based artist and writer Pops Peterson debuted Reinventing Rockwell, a series of artworks reimagining mid-century illustrations by Norman Rockwell in a manner reflective of today’s times. Celebrating America’s rich diversity and embracing Rockwell’s sense of humanity, Peterson has created images that envision social change and express his desire for a positive, inclusive, and just world.

Pops Peterson wishes to express appreciation to his talented team, including Cassandra Sohn, John Clarke, Judy Seaman, Matt Finnerty, Rob Grien, Cindy Atkins, Joseph Cisneros, Stephen G. Donaldson, Isha Nelson and Mont Vert Studio.

Launched at the High School of Music and Art in New York, Peterson’s artistic education continued at Pratt Institute and Columbia University. His writings have been published in Andy Warhol’s Interview, Essence, The Village Voice and The New York Times, and he has authored stage plays and screenplays for television and film. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination named Peterson its first Artist in Residence for which he lectures annually at the Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference. His painting, “Freedom from Shame,” inspired the Massachusetts Office on Disability’s statewide art competition, “Breaking Barriers,” which was presented in the Massachusetts State House in 2017.

Peterson is the owner and general manager of SEVEN salon.spa in Stockbridge, MA, a business established with his husband Mark Johnson that is situated directly across the street from Rockwell’s former home. Freedom from What? (I Can’t Breathe) has travelled across the nation in Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom, and we are honored to share a broader selection of images from this impactful series. Peterson’s work is also on view at Sohn Fine Art in Lenox, MA.

Reimagining the Four Freedoms
Through January 17, 2021

How might notions of freedom, as presented by Roosevelt and Rockwell during the World War II era, be reinterpreted for our times? What does freedom look like today?

Inspired by the legacies of Roosevelt and Rockwell, Reimagining the Four Freedoms is a juried exhibition inviting contemporary artists to consider two questions:

• How might notions of freedom, as presented in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s and Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, be interpreted for our times?

• What does freedom look like today?

This installation represents the diverse spectrum of responses received from artists across the nation and in Canada. Their compelling artworks in all media give voice to their observations and concerns about freedoms found and lost in our times.
Read the Press Release for Reimagining the Four Freedoms

Norman Rockwell: Murder in Mississippi
Through January 17, 2021

In 1964, after The Problem We All Live With ran in Look magazine, Norman Rockwell received many letters criticizing his choice of subject, but irate opinions did not stop him from pursuing his course. In the 1965 painting Murder in Mississippi, he illustrated the Philadelphia, Mississippi, slaying of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney.

The anatomy of this particular work illuminates Rockwell’s process. Veering from his habit of working on five or six projects at a time, Rockwell ignored other commissions. The result was an intensive five-week session in which he produced charcoal preliminaries, an oil color study, and the large final painting.

In an interview later in his life, Rockwell recalled earlier having been directed by The Saturday Evening Post to remove a black person from a group picture because the magazine’s policy dictated showing black people only in service industry jobs. Later, freed from such restraints, Rockwell seemed to look for opportunities to correct editorial prejudices inadvertently reflected in previous work. The Problem We All Live With and Murder in Mississippi ushered in that new era.

In the beginning of 1965, Rockwell began work on an illustration for Look about the June 21,1964, murders of three young civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael Schwerner and his chief aide, James Chaney, were in Philadelphia to assist with training summer volunteers, one of whom was Andrew Goodman. Schwerner had been targeted by the Klan for his organization of a black boycott of white-owned businesses and for his attempts to register blacks
in Meriden.

Hearing of a Klan attack against blacks and of arson at Mount Zion Church, the three men drove to the site. On their return to the Meriden office of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), they were taken into custody by Deputy Sheriff Price, by some accounts for speeding and by others for supposedly setting the fire. After releasing them later that night, Price tailed them. Once outside of town, Klansmen intercepted them and hustled them into Price’s car. They were driven to a remote location and shot point blank. Their bodies were then taken to the farm of one of the Klansmen, dumped into a dam site, and covered by tons of dirt pushed over them by tractor.

Rockwell conceived Murder in Mississippi as a horizontal composition to run across two pages. The young men would be pictured on the left page and Philadelphia Deputy Price and the posse of Klansmen wielding sticks (we later learned all were armed with rifles and shotguns) on the right. His next idea was to do two separate vertical pictures— the first showing the civil rights workers and the second showing the Mount Zion Church. Rockwell hired local architect Tom Arienti to draft a church steeple, but later decided against including the church.

On July 16, 1964, The New York Times ran a story titled “A 2nd Body Is Found in the Mississippi.” A saved copy of the story, found among Rockwell’s reference materials, establishes that he had the June 21, 1964, murders in mind long before beginning work on his painting in March 1965.

As no one had yet reported the exact details of the murder when Rockwell began his painting, he borrowed from Hector Rondon’s 1963 Pulitzer Prize–winning news photo “Aid from the Padre” for the pose of Michael Schwerner holding James Chaney. Rockwell later wrote a note to himself to remember to tell Look art director Allen Hurlburt he had used Rondon’s photo.

Before he began work on his painting, Rockwell compiled notes on the physical traits and clothing of the three young men, the circumstances of their abduction, and the brutal details of their murders. Additional details about the day and the place the three men were murdered were recorded.

Abbreviated versions of Rockwell’s handwritten notes were typed. The parenthetical remark, “I have not tried to make absolute likenesses,” and the use of stationery indicates they were probably intended for Look art director Allen Hurlburt.

Found among his references, this news clip reveals that Rockwell originally considered showing the Klansmen as individuals. Just as he had compiled notes about the victims, police photos provided him with information about the Klansmen’s physical traits.

Rockwell’s son Jarvis served as one of his models. Rockwell’s studio, ordinarily bathed in north light, was darkened with shades. Spotlights were brought in to create a nighttime effect. Additional photos were taken of Jarvis Rockwell and Oliver McCary with McCary appearing more wounded.

Blood—human blood, at Rockwell’s insistence—was procured from a concealed source and applied to a shirt that represented the shirt Michael Schwerner was wearing when he was killed. Rockwell himself wore the shirt for the posing, probably not wanting to ask anyone else to wear it.

On April 14, Rockwell sent his final painting to Look. On the 29th, Rockwell received word that Look had decided to use his color study rather than the final painting. Three years later, Rockwell reflected that by the time he had finished the final painting, “all the anger that was in the sketch had gone out of it.”

Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career. Learn more…

Through January 17, 2021

For nearly 50 years, millions of Americans brought Norman Rockwell’s art into their homes, enjoying the artist’s Saturday Evening Post covers while seated in their favorite chairs, surrounded by their belongings in the company of their families. This intimate connection with Rockwell’s art made his images a part of the fabric of American lives. This comprehensive exhibition of original Saturday Evening Post cover tear sheets features each of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations for the publication, created between 1916 and 1963.

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